A brewing crisis in the Middle East is causing an almost daily uptick in oil prices but early signs of a rebound in the U.S. economy is indeed offering substantial tailwind to crude too.
In London Brent crude went past $113 a barrel, propelled mainly by the worsening Middle East crisis. Brent rose 58 cents to $113.32 a barrel by 0943 GMT, while U.S. crude was up 43 cents to $102.24, Reuters reported.
According to a Bloomberg report, oil prices are likely to record a weekly gain in New York as macro economic data showed signs of an economic rebound in the U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures advanced 3.4 percent this week while Brent’s premium widened from close to $8 a barrel near the end of the last month.
Friday's U.S. employment report, which could possibly show that nonfarm payrolls rose 150,000 in December, signaling robust turnaround in the last quarter, is expected to cause further ripples in the oil market, along with heightened tension in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the enforcement of the EU embargo on Iranian crude imports will be delayed by some months as European leaders are keen on shielding the economy from the impact of the blockade.
However, a sure sign of further oil price hardening, irrespective of where the Iran-West tussle over nuclear sanctions is heading, is the positive signal from the U.S. economy.
Data showed last week that initial jobless claims declined further to 372,000, from 387,000 in the previous week while the US ISM non-manufacturing index rebounded if only in a modest way in December. According to the ADP payroll survey, the US private sector payroll employment rose by a bigger than expected 325,000 in December, up from 204,000 the month before.
Yet another sign of a recovery in the U.S. is the improved fortunes of the housing industry. According to analysts at Capital Economics, 2012 may well be the year in which the five-year-long decline in US house prices ends. The recent fall in mortgage rates to a new record low of just above 4% and the latest acceleration in jobs growth should also provide a small boost to housing demand, economist Paul Dales wrote in a note.
Deutsche Bank said on Friday it expects Brent oil price to rise to $115 a barrel this year while the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) will average around $105 a barrel. We now expect global growth of only 3.2 percent in 2012, the bank said, according to the Economic Times. According to the bank, Brent could reach $125 a barrel in 2015 while WTI would hit $120 a barrel.
A strengthening of hope in economic recovery across the world, more so in the U.S., would raise questions about the supply side strength of oil and thereby lead to a spike in prices.
People are being cautiously optimistic about where they think things could go over the next nine months ... If growth is higher than expected, then suddenly we could be back to a situation like 2008 where people are querying whether or not there is supply capacity, Nick McGregor, an oil analyst at stockbrokers Redmayne Bentley, was quoted as saying in a BBC article.
That said, there are analysts who think fears over an oil price boom are out of place. According to Byron Wien, the Vice-Chairman of Blackstone Advisory Services, oil will fall to $85 in 2012 owing to a combination of factors like more extraction of oil and gas from shale and rock, better output from Libya and Iraq and an overall demand weakness across globe.