Oil prices experienced a sharp 4% increase following military strikes conducted by the United States and the United Kingdom against Houthi targets in Yemen. The strikes were a response to ongoing attacks by Houthi rebels on ships navigating the Red Sea. Brent crude reached $80 per barrel for the first time this year, prompting concerns of another energy shock.
The ongoing attacks have raised fears of disruptions to cargo traffic, with the UK government modeling scenarios of crude oil prices rising by over $10 a barrel and a 25% increase in natural gas.
The Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have intensified their assaults on commercial vessels since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in October. The United States reported 27 attacks in the Red Sea since mid-November, prompting the recent military action.
The strategic waterway, the Bab al-Mandab Strait, has witnessed heightened tensions as the Houthi rebels deploy drones and rockets against foreign-owned vessels. Shipping routes through the strait of Bab al-Mandab are affected, leading companies to divert vessels around the Cape of Good Hope, adding significant travel time.
The White House estimates that about 15% of global seaborne trade passes through the Red Sea, impacting global grain, seaborne oil, and liquefied natural gas markets. Shipping disruptions have already led to suspended car production by Tesla and warnings from retailers like Tesco, Ikea, and Danone about potential delays and increased costs.
While the military strikes aim to deter Houthi attacks, the situation remains volatile. The rebels have vowed retaliation, and there are uncertainties about the long-term impact on global trade and energy markets.
The international community, including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Korea, has supported the US and UK in these strikes. The aftermath of these events underscores the intricate connections between geopolitical tensions, military actions, and the global economy.
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