Oil Rises on Libya Disruption; Goldman Sachs Sees ‘Upside Risk’
Brent rose above $119 a barrel on estimates the revolt caused Libya to lose as much as two-thirds of its oil output. Futures for April delivery in New York gained for a sixth day, after climbing above $100 a barrel. The cuts create “significant upside risk” to prices by reducing OPEC’s ability to offfset any escalation of supply disruptions in the Middle East, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said.
“The events in Libya and North Africa have brought geopolitical risk back onto the radar,” Soozhana Choi, head of Asian commodities research at Deutsche Bank AG in Singapore, told Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg Television’s “On the Move”. “How much higher prices can go really depends on the spread of protests in the region.”
Brent oil for April settlement rose as much as $8.54, or 7.7 percent, to $119.79 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, the highest since Aug. 21, 2008. The contract traded at $117.10 at 3:59 p.m. Singapore time. It has rallied 15 percent this week.
Crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained as much as $5.31, or 5.4 percent, to $103.41 a barrel in electronic trading. Yesterday, it added $2.68 at $98.10, the highest settlement since Oct. 1, 2008.
Libya, which pumps 1.6 million barrels a day of oil, is the ninth-largest producer among the 12 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, shipping most of its crude and fuels across the Mediterranean to Europe. The country has the largest reserves in Africa.
As much as 1 million barrels of Libya’s daily oil production may have been shut, Barclays Capital said in a report yesterday. Goldman Sachs estimated disruptions at 500,000 barrels a day. Total SA and OMV AG became the latest energy producers to scale back Libyan operations, following Eni SpA, RWE AG and BASF SE’s Wintershall unit. China National Petroleum Corp. said it relocated 47 of its Libyan-based workforce.
New York futures retreated from an intraday high of $100 a barrel yesterday after Saudi Arabia and other countries said they might not wait for an emergency meeting of OPEC to increase output, according to a person with knowledge of producer-nation policy. Any extra supply would be conditional on requests for more crude, the person said.
“One reason we haven’t seen a far more aggressive rally is because from an OPEC spare capacity perspective they are far healthier now,” Choi said. “Beyond spare capacity, if you look at commercial inventories, they are quite healthy as well.”
Crude stockpiles in the U.S., the world’s largest oil user, climbed 163,000 barrels last week, the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute said yesterday. An Energy Department report today may show supplies increased 1.1 million barrels in the seven days ended Feb. 18 from 345.9 million, according to the median estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Libya is the latest nation to be rocked by protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and fanned by the Feb. 11 fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Disturbances have spread to Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Algeria.
Unrest in Bahrain, which is linked to Saudi Arabia by a 26- kilometer (16-mile) causeway and whose capital, Manama, is a four-hour drive from its Saudi counterpart, Riyadh, has in the past spread across the border. In 1995, the Saudi government arrested a large number of Shiite Muslims on suspicion of involvement in protests taking place in Bahrain, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Shiites make up between 60 and 70 percent of the Bahraini population and are a significant minority in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where most of the country’s oil is produced.
Prices may surge to $220 a barrel if more production is halted in Libya and Algeria, analysts at Nomura Holdings Inc., led by Michael Lo in Hong Kong, said yesterday in a note. Algeria is also an OPEC member.
“There is room for spikes, possibly to $175,” Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks & Opinions LLC in Houston, told Susan Li on Bloomberg Television’s “First Up.” “Something like that would have to take an extreme situation, more unrest in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia.”
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