Oil Prices Jump Amid Middle East Tensions

U.S. Crude Oil WTI Futures jumped 2.9% to $62.98 by 12:01 AM ET (04:01 GMT), while international Brent Oil Futures surged 3.1% to $68.31, its highest level since September.

Reports that a U.S. airstrike killed key Iranian and Iraqi military personnel escalated Middle East tensions and raised concerns of oil supplies disruption, supporting oil markets today.

Oil prices were also lifted by the People’s Bank of China, which announced earlier this week that it was slashing the amount of cash that banks must hold in reserve, releasing around 800 billion yuan ($115 billion) in funds to support the slowing Chinese economy.

Positive data that showed China’s production activities business confidence grew were also cited as a tailwind.

“Oil prices still have room for further upside as many analysts are still having to upgrade their demand forecasts to include a rather calm period on the trade front,” Edward Moya said, an analyst at brokerage OANDA, told Reuters in an interview.

“President Trump is likely to take a break on being ‘tariff man’ until we get beyond the presidential election in November.”

Earlier this week, Trump said a phase one trade deal will be signed on Jan. 15 at the White House.

In October, the UN noted that there was a “growing downward trend” in the organization’s regular budget. And the situation was becoming “direr than the year before” as the cash deficits, which were happening earlier in the year, tended to “linger longer and run deeper.”

The trend has worsened since member countries like the U.S. — which by itself is responsible for 22% of the regular budget and 28% of the peacekeeping budget — hasn’t paid in full.

‘Our work and our reforms are at risk’

The international organization, which depends on member states for contributions used for activities ranging from staffing costs to missions, said in October that it was facing a severe liquidity crisis and that it could run out of money in just a few weeks.

“This month, we will reach the deepest deficit of the decade,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told member states. “We risk exhausting the closed peacekeeping cash reserves and entering November without enough cash to cover payrolls… Our work and our reforms are at risk.”

Guterres also called on states to “recommit to paying your financial obligations on time and in full.”

Several countries have since heeded his call, and the UN said then that it had received enough partial payments from countries to pay its staff. But roughly 50 states had yet to pay their contributions in full.

The UN’s Dujarric confirmed that $772 million in payments were still owed overall as of mid-December.

‘This isn’t the first time’

An official from the U.S. mission previously said that D.C. is committed to meeting the payments in the fall. But history suggests that the delay in payments could be a result of political intent.

U.S. President Donald Trump openly criticized the value of the UN during his first visit to the UN headquarters in 2017, when he told the UN General Assembly that the organization was bloated and the U.S. way paying too much.

“We must ensure that no one and no member state shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden and that’s militarily or financially,” Trump stated. The U.S. president maintained that stance in October this year.

“These tensions have happened in the past as well,” added Gutner. “There was a crisis in the 1960s — it wasn’t the U.S. but the Soviet Union and France were withholding their payments because they were upset about the peacekeeping mission in Congo. And in the ’80s and ’90s, there were issues between the U.S. and the UN, with the U.S. withholding money because they wanted to negotiate a lower share for [their] contribution to the UN budget, and they wanted to extract other concessions. So this isn’t the first time.”

In the meantime, UN staff told Yahoo Finance that they’re optimistic that the issue will be resolved soon.

“UN staff are highly dedicated individuals, committed to the noble mission of the United Nations,” United Nations Staff Union New York President Patricia Nemeth said in a statement. “Many of us have experience working in hardship conditions and we will do what it takes to get the job done…

“However, the reputation of the United Nations as a reliable employer, capable of attracting the world’s best and brightest, can be severely tarnished if this situation is not resolved within the foreseeable future.”  Yahoo