Oil prices headed higher on Thursday, hitting two-and-a-half year highs, buoyed by political strife in Iran after the country’s Revolutionary Guard deployed forces to quell anti-government unrest in three different provinces. Tensions have been running high in the region since last week, with 21 casualties of the violence thus far.
Also driving oil prices higher is the arctic blast that is hitting the East Coast of the United States and sending demands for oil unexpectedly higher. U.S. WTI futures were trading at $62.15 per barrel, up 0.84 percent as of 2:23 p.m. HK/SIN. Brent crude futures were up 0.50 percent to $68.17 per barrel.
Dollar Movements and FOMC Minutes
The U.S. dollar was higher against most of its primary trading partners on Thursday after the release of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes on Wednesday which showed that committee members increased their growth expectations for the 2018 GDP from 2.1 percent to 2.5 percent. The committee also voted to increase its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point to 1.5 percent.
The dollar was higher against the yen, trading at 112.54, a 0.04 percent increase. It was slightly lower against the euro, trading at $1.2028, and it was unchanged against the Swiss franc.
The meeting’s minutes focused mostly around the country’s strong economy and highlighted improvements in payrolls and the unemployment rate which is down to 4.1 percent. Speculation around the new tax plan and how it would impact the economy also dominated the meeting’s agenda, though the tax plan had not been passed at the time of last month’s meeting. Nevertheless, meeting participants did note expectation for the tax cuts to contribute to market gains and other areas of the economy as well.