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Morning Market Roundup: Iran’s Oil, Japan’s Trade Deficit, EU Still Looking for Solution

Here’s What’s important in the financial world this morning (U.S. markets are closed for President’s Day):

Iran: Oil prices jumped to a nine-month high above $105 a barrel on Monday after Iran said it halted crude exports to Britain and France in an escalation of a dispute over the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear program.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark March crude was up $1.91 to $105.15 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the day, it rose to $105.21, the highest since May. The contract rose 93 cents to settle at $103.24 per barrel in New York on Friday.

Iran’s oil ministry said Sunday it stopped crude shipments to British and French companies in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran’s crucial fuel exports. They include a freeze of the country’s central bank assets and an oil embargo set to begin in July.

Japan: Japan posted a record high trade deficit in January after its nuclear crisis shut down nearly all the nation’s reactors for tougher checks, sending fuel imports surging. Exports were hurt by a strong yen and weak demand.

The 1.48 trillion yen ($18.7 billion) deficit reported Monday highlights Japan’s increased dependence on imported fuel after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami sent the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant into multiple meltdowns.

EU: Eurozone governments are due to sign off on Monday a long-awaited rescue package for Greece, saving it from a potentially calamitous bankruptcy next month, senior officials said.

But finance ministers meeting in Brussels still have a few last issues to wrangle over, such as tighter controls over Greece‘s spending and further cuts to the country’s debt load.

Greece needs to secure the €130 billion ($170 billion) bailout quickly so it can move ahead with a related €100 billion ($130 billion) debt relief deal with private investors, which needs to be in place quickly if Athens is to avoid a disorderly default on a bond repayment on March 20.

“I am of the opinion that today we have to deliver, because we don’t have any more time,” Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg who also chairs the meetings of eurozone finance ministers, said as he arrived in Brussels.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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