Oil futures rose to an all-time high near $121 a barrel Tuesday with new concerns about a threat to supply and a weaker dollar. Light, sweet crude for June delivery rose to a record $120.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday. The contract later retreated to $119.88 a barrel, down 9 cents from Monday's close.
The dollar weakened against the euro on Monday, attracting investors to oil and other commodities viewed as hedges against inflation. Also, a falling dollar makes oil less expensive to investors overseas. A series of U.S. Federal Reserve rate cuts starting last year weakened the dollar considerably against foreign currencies, and analysts blame the dollar's protracted decline for oil's sharp rise this spring.
Supply outages or potential threats to supply emerged in Iran and Nigeria over the weekend and from Iraq on Monday; events in all three nations have caused prices to spike many times in recent months.
In Iraq, Kurdish rebels warned they could launch suicide attacks against American interests to punish the U.S. for sharing intelligence with Turkey after Turkey bombed rebel bases in Iraq on Friday. In Nigeria, a Royal Dutch Shell PLC spokesman said attackers hit an oil facility belonging to Shell's joint venture in southern Nigeria and that some oil production has been shut down. And Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said his country will not bend to international pressure and give up its nuclear program.
Energy investors grow concerned any time conflict breaks out or is threatened in the oil-rich Middle East. Years of unrest in Nigeria have cut off nearly a quarter of the major U.S. supplier's oil output.
Amid the occasional threats to crude supplies, global demand for oil continues to grow. The Chinese and Indian economies are growing by double digits, boosting global demand for oil.