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WTI oscillates in range around $85.00 mark despite worsening Middle East crisis

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  • WTI kicks off the new week on a subdued note and reacts little to Iran’s attack on Israel.
  • Worries about cooling fuel demand turn out to be a key factor capping the black liquid.
  • The risk of a further escalation of tensions in the Middle East to help limit the downside.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) US crude Oil prices fail to lure buyers despite Iran's attack on Israel over the weekend and seesaws between tepid gains/minor losses during the Asian session on Monday. The commodity currently trades just below the $85.00/barrel mark, nearly unchanged for the day as traders now await Israel's response to the Iranian strike before placing fresh directional bets. 

Iran launched explosive drones and missiles at Israel late on Saturday in retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on its consulate in Syria earlier this month. This marks the first attack on Israel from another country in more than three decades and raises the risk of a broader region conflict, which could affect Oil supply from the Middle East. Meanwhile, Israeli officials are in favor of retaliation, though the US has said that it will not take part in any offensive action against Iran. This, in turn, is seen as a key reason behind the muted market reaction and acts as a headwind for Crude Oil prices. 

The black liquid is further undermined by the fact that the International Energy Agency lowered the 2024 global oil demand growth forecast by 130,000 bpd to 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) on Friday. This comes on top of the official US data published by the Energy Information Administration last week, which showed an unexpected build in gasoline inventories and pointed to signs of cooling in fuel demand. Furthermore, bets that the Federal Reserve (Fed) may delay cutting interest rates in the wake of still-sticky inflation could hamper economic activity and dent fuel consumption.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned mixed fundamental backdrop keeps traders on the sidelines and leads to subdued/range-bound price action on the first day of a new week. WTI Crude Oil prices, meanwhile, remain well within the striking distance of a multi-month peak, around the $87.10-$87.15 area touched on April 5, which should act as a key pivotal point. A sustained strength beyond will be seen as a fresh trigger for bullish traders and set the stage for an extension of the recent well-established uptrend witnessed over the past month or so.

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