King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s long-time ruler, died Thursday at the age of 90, according to state media reports.
His death immediately raised questions about whether his country, the world’s largest crude producer, would maintain its current oil production levels. The uncertainty sent world crude prices up sharply.
Oil prices in New York jumped roughly 3% after the Saudi Press Agency announced Abdullah’s death and the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil was recently up about 2%.
Saudi Arabia was a strong voice in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision in November to keep oil output steady despite a worldwide glut that has caused prices to tumble. They are now down by nearly 55% from their peak in June to less than $50 a barrel, creating huge savings for energy hungry countries and lower gasoline prices for drivers.
Saudi Arabia has said that Crown Prince Salman will succeed Abdullah as king. He is the deceased king’s brother is believed to be 79-years old.