Keep Your Eyes on the Middle East
Sanctions against Iran are now starting to have an effect on companies who do business there. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, some of the first companies hit are oil shippers who transport crude from Iran to its trade partners.
Late last week, Overseas Shipholding Group (NYS: OSG) , Frontline (NYS: FRO) , and a number of other tanker companies said they would stop shipping Iranian oil. European Union sanctions sealed the deal for them because most of their fleets are insured under European law, meaning they are bound to abide by the sanctions.
This just exacerbates an already terrible market for oil tankers. Yesterday, Nordic American (NYS: NAT) said it lost $0.37 per share, $0.10 more than it lost last year, as the tanker market continued to weaken. Sanctions against Iran won't likely be what bring the industry to its knees, because Saudi Arabia has said it will pick up the slack in supply. But the tanker business isn't strong and now is when things get tricky, not to say dangerous, for those involved in the oil trade.
Everyone's on edge when Iran is angry
The impact of sanctions against Iran won't be limited to shippers and Iran's economy. When Iran gets angry, it can act out like a child who didn't get his way.
Bloomberg is reporting that gunfights have erupted in a Saudi Arabian province where oil is produced. The concern is that tensions in Iran will only make the fighting worse. Ties between Shiite Muslims in Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as past political uprisings in the area, make it a tenuous situation, to say the least. Add to that the possibility that Iran could shut down the Straight of Hormuz and you have a potentially devastating impact on the world's oil trade.
Impacting your portfolio
At the very least, I think it's pretty safe to say that the price of oil isn't going to collapse any time soon. If anything, oil could spike if any sort of conflict erupts disrupting supply. Protect your portfolio with stocks that will rise if oil prices jump. Deepwater drillers, domestic shale producers, and service providers top my list.
At the time this article was published Fool contributorTravis Hoiumdoes not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at@FlushDrawFool, check out hispersonal stock holdingsor follow his CAPS picks atTMFFlushDraw.Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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