The fighting between Iran and Iraq prompted investors to reevaluate their bearish assessments of the domestic oil companies last week. Stocks of such companies as Atlantic Richfield, Standard Oil of Ohio, and Standard Oil of Indiana bounced off their yearly lows.
Behind the bounce, oil industry executives and analysts say, is the feeling that this war is more significant or world oil markets than even the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Over the short term, comments Sanford Margoshes, an analyst at Bache, it may remove some Iranian and Iraqi crude oil from the glutted world markets. Over the longer term, he says, there are more ominous implications. If Iran forces a change of government in Iraq, he says, it will alter the balance of power in the Middle East. Iranian control of Iraq, for example, ''would have a chilling effect on the Saudis.''In fact, one oil industry executive says an Iranian victory would have a ''psychological impact'' on Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and other major oil producers in the Gulf. ''It's more worrisome than the Beirut situation,'' he comments.
The immediate impact of the invasion was minimal on the oil spot markets. According to Albert Basasano, executive editor of the Oil Buyer's Guide, there was no price surge or speculative drive in oil prices except on the Mercantile Exchange, where speculators bid up the price of home heating oil contracts. The markets remained calm, he pointed out, since oil companies are aware there is enough excess OPEC capacity to make up for a curtailment of oil supplies from both Iran and Iraq.
Still, as Mr. Margoshes notes, investors started to place a little more value on domestic reserves. ''The value of a barrel of oil in a secure place is suddenly more attractive,'' he concludes.