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March ICE Brent spikes more than $3/b as Iranian missiles strike US bases in Iraq

Tokyo — Front-month March ICE Brent crude oil futures surged more than $3/b to hit a high of $71.75/b at Wednesday's Asia open, after Iran launched missiles striking two US military bases in Iraq.

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After hitting the high, March ICE Brent retreated to $70.81/b at 9:11 am Singapore time (0111 GMT), up $2.54/b from Tuesday's settle.

The front-month February NYMEX crude contract was up $2.20/b from Tuesday's close at $64.90/b at 0111 GMT.

Iranian state TV said Tehran had started an attack on US facilities in Iraq in retaliation for last week's US drone strike in Baghdad that killed General Qassem Soleimani.

The US Department of Defense said Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at bases housing US troops.

"It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Erbil," a Pentagon spokesman said. "We are working on initial battle damage assessments."

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said: "We are aware of the reports of attacks on US facilities in Iraq. The President has been briefed and is monitoring the situation closely and consulting with his national security team."

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Analysts see major risks to Iraq's crude supply if the conflict escalates. Iraq pumped 4.68 million b/d in November -- close to 5% of global crude output -- according to the latest S&P Global Platts survey of OPEC production.

US officials have also warned of potential Iranian attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Saudi Arabia's critical Abqaiq crude processing facility has already been hit once, on September 14, in an attack Saudi authorities have blamed on Iran, causing half of the kingdom's production capacity to go offline temporarily, though it quickly recovered.

Saudi Arabia is the third-largest global crude producer, pumping 9.90 million b/d in November, according to the Platts OPEC survey, or about one out of every 10 barrels in the world.

Should Iran be targeted by the US, its 2.15 million b/d of production could also be at risk.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Chris van Moessner, christopher.vanmoessner@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy, geetha.narayanasamy@spglobal.com