Saudi shuts major oil pipeline after Houthi drone attacks

A passerby walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo Japan

"There could be a pretty serious conflict with Iran should they do something to USA forces in the region, and that would spike the price of oil", said Josh Graves, senior commodities strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago. Now, would I do that? "Absolutely. But we have not planned for that", Trump told reporters. Hopefully we're not going to have to plan for that.

However, Trump later denied a New York Times report that he is considering sending 120,000 troops to counter Iran.

"With rising tensions between Iran and the USA, and with significant naval build-up in the region, markets are sensitive to news and can be tipped by the smallest signs of a conflict", said Mihir Kapadia, chief executive of Sun Global Investments.

"There won't be any war".

A U.S. official said Iran was the likely culprit. In retaliation, Tehran declared last week that it would restart enriching uranium at higher levels if the worldwide powers do not negotiate fresh terms for the deal.

Tehran has been embroiled in an escalating war of words with the United States over stricter U.S. sanctions, which have cut its oil exports and tightened global supply.

US oil output from seven major shale formations, however, is expected to rise to a fresh peak of about 8.5 million barrels per day in June, the US Energy Information Administration said in a report on Monday.

Iran rejects the allegation of Iranian involvement and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that "extremist individuals" in the US government were pursuing risky policies.

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The Houthi rebels have launched dozens of drone strikes and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi cities in the past months to retaliate against the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes on their positions in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in the Yemen war to bolster the internationally recognized government's efforts against the Huthis in March 2015. The latest in a series of terror-linked violence was a multiple drone attack which hit Aramco oil stations in each of the Al Duawadimi and Afif districts in Riyadh.

State-run Aramco said it had temporarily shut down the East-West pipeline, known as Petroline, for evaluation. The stations are connected to a pipeline that runs from the kingdom's oil-rich Eastern Province to the Red Sea port of Yanbu.

Iran, using regional proxies, has been gradually scaling up its attacks against Saudi oil targets since 2003. Brent was trading at $71.37 a barrel by 1715 GMT, up 1.62%. USA intelligence sources have alleged Iran is behind the unexplained attacks, but added Washington does not have enough proof to back that claim.

Al-Falih condemned the latest attacks, along with the Sunday attacks against four ships including two Saudi oil vessels near the port of Fujairah, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), for attempting to destabilize the worldwide energy supply.

"These attacks prove again that it is important for us to face terrorist entities, including the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed by Iran", Falih said in an English-language statement issued by his ministry.

Oil futures inched up on Wednesday as the prospect of mounting tensions in the Middle East hitting global supplies overshadowed an unexpected build in USA crude inventories.

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