Oil prices are on the march again Thursday after climbing sharply yesterday, with WTI prices this morning above $69 per barrel and Brent crude, the global benchmark, earlier reaching $74.61.

Crude oil is trading at its highest levels in well over three years.

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Data: Money.net; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: As we noted yesterday in the Axios stream, the price jump suggests that oil may no longer be stuck in the $60 to $70-a-barrel range, but may have room to rise much higher. That would put a lot more money in the coffers of the petro-states, and could bring inflation to oil-consuming states.

What's happening: Signs of declining stockpiles, OPEC and Russia's apparent determination to stay the course on their current supply-limiting deal, and geopolitical tensions are all fueling the upward moves, which come despite the ongoing U.S output surge.

Yes, but: That said, OCBC analyst Barnabas Gan predicts in Reuters that the "risk premiums" from geopolitical tensions in the Middle East will be short-lived and that "investors will likely be normalizing prices lower again as the tensions ease."

Looking forward: This morning, the Wall Street Journal sets the table for tomorrow's meeting of oil officials from Saudi Arabia and Russia as analysts wonder what happens after the current deal expires at year's end.

  • "A strong show of support for a continuation of the pact could further underpin prices, when geopolitics and the threat of supply disruptions have been pressuring them higher," the paper reports.

Eyes on Iran: Markets are also watching the U.S. posture toward the Iran nuclear deal and especially next month's decision on whether to continue waiving energy sanctions.

  • A new piece in Bloomberg surveyed analysts and found, "The 17 respondents saw on average a 50-50 chance of sanctions 'snap-back,' which could halt anywhere between zero and 800 thousand barrels a day of exports from OPEC’s third-largest producer within the next six months."

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