What's Behind The Recent Surge In Oil Prices?

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Includes: BNO, DBO, DNO, DTO, DWT, OIL, OILK, OILX, OLEM, OLO, SCO, SZO, UCO, USL, USO, USOI, UWT, WTID, WTIU
by: Russell Investments

On the latest edition of Market Week in Review, Rob Cittadini, director, Americas institutional, and Chief Investment Strategist Erik Ristuben discussed the recent rise in oil prices amidst political unrest in Saudi Arabia.

Oil prices on the upswing as turmoil engulfs Saudi Arabia

The recent events in Saudi Arabia helped fuel a steep increase in oil prices across the globe the week of Nov. 6, Ristuben said - with the cost of U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rising to nearly $57 a barrel, up from roughly $49 a month earlier. "Whenever there's a potential change in tenure or political tone in a country, that creates volatility," he explained, adding that geopolitical risks very rarely have a lasting impact on markets.

That said, in Ristuben's opinion, much of the uptick in oil prices is better attributed to the health of the global economy. As evidence, he cited the upward adjustments to the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate in both Europe and the U.S. "This is further proof that the global economy is expanding," he said - "leading people to begin pricing in a higher demand for oil."

U.S. tax reform debate continues

Switching to the U.S., Ristuben noted that financial markets have been jittery in recent days as both houses of Congress continue to hammer out details of proposed tax cut legislation. "This serves as a stark reminder of just how hard it is to get anything done in the U.S. at the federal level, no matter which party is in control," he said. Tax reform in particular is extremely difficult, Ristuben explained, because the economic makeup of the states or regions represented by members of Congress can vary wildly from one to the next. "This means that when you change the rules, there will be clear winners and losers," he said.

Ultimately, Ristuben and the team of Russell Investments strategists believe that a tax reform package will get passed, likely in early 2018 - but that it probably won't be as ambitious in scope as what was originally laid out.

Global economy continues to shine - What could it mean for financial markets?

Transitioning to European economic news, Ristuben said that the continued surge in German industrial production was a high point for the week. The positive numbers are reflective of steady economic growth on a global scale, he said. "Overall, the latest data coming through has been consistently solid across the board-and markets have taken notice," Ristuben stated.

He added that in his and other Russell Investments strategists' viewpoint, this will likely translate into continued gains in the stock market, but that more volatility is also a possibility. "Negative pullbacks are common in equities - and we haven't had one in a while," Ristuben noted. "Don't be surprised if one happens - and don't be terrified either, because all things considered, I think the economy will continue to move forward."

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