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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.

Expand chart
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."

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Report: Pentagon watchdog finds Ronny Jackson drank on duty and harassed staff

Rep. Ronny Jackson walking through the Canon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol in January. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) allegedly made "sexual and denigrating" comments about a female staffer, drank alcohol and took sleeping medication while working as White House physician, according to a report obtained by CNN Tuesday night.

Driving the news: The Department of Defense inspector general's report stems from a years-long investigation. Jackson has called the allegations "false and fabricated."

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.