Iran nuclear talks fail: Where next for oil?

The fallout from the failure of a high-profile international meeting over Iran’s nuclear ambitions could be most felt in the cost of oil.

The Brent crude price of oil rose towards $106 a barrel in early trading Monday morning, following the conclusion of the weekend’s meeting. Any signs that Iran is coming into the international fold, and that sanctions against the state could be lifted, are usually negative for the oil price.

Yet there is an “intrinsic downside” to forecasts for the oil price in the next year, ClearView Energy Partners argued. Analysts at the energy research firm predict that the cost of oil will fall $102 per barrel in the last quarter of 2014, with a bull case of $107 and a bear case of $90, because Iran could still come back to the table rather than face strengthened U.S. sanctions.

“Iran might bristle at negotiating at gunpoint, but such conditions also have a tendency to ‘focus the mind,'” they argued.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

There is also the possibility that Western governments may soften their stance.

“The U.S. cannot afford to pass up an opportunity from a new government who reaches out to us…We have to test the waters. I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high,” Jim Jones, former national security adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, told CNBC.

(Read moreWhy a nuclear deal would mean oil price falls)

The recently elected President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has appeared more conciliatory towards the West than predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad so far, which has increased speculation that there might be a rapprochement.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demonstrated the U.S. government’s skepticism about Iran’s plans when he told NBC’s Meet the Press programme: “We are not blind, and I don’t think we’re stupid,” after the meeting ended without agreement.

Upheaval in the Middle East has always affected everyday life around the world through its impact on the price of oil. If Iran began selling oil again, theoretically there should be more oil on the market, which should send prices down.

(Read more: Iran nuclear talks: The oil price fallout)

Iran’s nuclear capability has always been a sticking point, as Western governments are concerned about the state’s potential ability to produce nuclear weapons. Wealthy Iranians want access to the close to $100 billion held in overseas bank accounts, which is frozen under current sanctions. And Iran is believed to be in the grip of recession, so needs foreign money for its oil more than before.

Talks are believed to have been scuppered over failure to agree on the development of Iran’s nuclear program, particularly on its plans to develop a heavy water reactor at Arak.

The failure of the talks means that new sanctions against Iran are more likely to clear the U.S. Senate this week, although the sanctions are likely to be less harsh than an earlier version passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Future talks are likely to be less heavily publicized as a result of the embarrassing lack of decision-making from the weekend’s meeting. The unexpected presence of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the meeting had heightened hopes that a deal was imminent.

“The seven nations’ top diplomats may be reluctant to appear in person again for anything less than a final, mutually-agreeable deal,” ClearView Energy Partners pointed out.

– By CNBC’s Catherine Boyle. Twitter: @cboylecnbc

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