Oil futures jumped past $50 a barrel on Thursday, headed for their fifth straight daily gain as Saudi Arabian airstrikes in Yemen raised fresh concerns over potential disruptions to crude supplies.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations launched airstrikes against rebel forces in Yemen’s capital and across the country. The strikes began Thursday morning, hours after Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, fled the southern port city of Aden by boat when Iranian-backed Houthi militants closed in.
“Saudi Arabia, the biggest and most important oil producer in the Middle East, is now in an armed conflict,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB Markets, in a note. “Just the headline of this happening is driving chilling fears into the bones of all oil consumers.”
That said, Schieldrop doesn’t expect the conflict in Yemen to have much of an impact on oil supply.
Still, although Yemen isn’t a very big producer of crude oil, it is adjacent to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, one of the world’s main transit points for seaborne trade. Its closure could prevent oil tankers from the Persian Gulf from reaching the Suez Canal and block the quickest route for tankers from North Africa to Asia, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.