Crude oil prices jumped in European trade Monday after Iran said it halted oil exports to the UK and France in reply to the European Union's economic sanctions over its disputed nuclear program.
Light sweet crude for March delivery gained 1.76 percent to $105.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange during European trading hours. Brent crude oil futures for April delivery rose 1.02 percent to $120.82 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
According to Iran's official news agency IRNA, Oil Ministry spokesman Ali Reza Nikzad Rahbar said Sunday: “Oil sales to British and French companies have ceased. We have taken steps to deliver our oil to other countries in the place of British and French companies.”
However, the decision isn't expected to have a big impact as the UK gets only 1 percent of its oil from Iran and France gets only about 3 percent from there.
European Union governments agreed last month to an immediate ban on all new contracts to import, buy or transport Iranian crude oil and agreed to fulfill existing contracts until July 1, 2012. After Saudi Arabia, Iran is the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The European Union buys about 18 percent of Iran's total crude exports.
Meanwhile, optimism that the Greece bailout deal would be reached at the EU finance ministers' meeting Monday also buoyed sentiment.
European Finance Ministers are meeting in Brussels Monday and are expected to approve a second rescue package worth 130 billion euros ($170.9 billion) for Greece as major Eurozone powers have assured that they would not allow a disorderly Greece default.