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It’s All About the Oil: A View of Events in Libya

By Greg McIntire, CFA; Michael Pidhirsky; Sandra M. Schaufler, CFA; James Solloway, CFA

The ousting of Tunisia’s President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January was the first in a series of uprisings in Africa and the Middle East. The collapse of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime on 11 February added strength to a contagion that swept across the region faster and farther than anyone could have predicted, with outbreaks spreading to Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Algeria. While the protests have made for dramatic television footage, they were largely a sideshow for the financial markets…until Libya exploded.

Libya’s Effects More Far-Reaching Than Egypt’s

The unrest in Libya sparked by the attempt to oust ruler Muammar Gaddafi has impacted global financial markets more than the turmoil in countries such as Egypt for one reason: oil. Whereas Egypt is not a significant exporter of oil (it consumes nearly as much as it produces), Libya is Africa’s third-largest oil-producing country behind Nigeria and Angola, and ranks as the ninth-largest producer among the 12 members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The country pumps 1.6 million barrels of oil per day (bpd).

More significantly, Libya is a major oil producer for Europe, which imports about 80% of Libya's 1.3 million bpd of exports.

Now, worries are shifting to Saudi Arabia. Will it be the next country to fall victim to the unrest spreading across the Middle East?

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It Is All About the Oil

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