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Oil futures jump to near $135 a barrel on weaker dollar, prediction of price spike

Oil futures jump to near $135 a barrel on weaker dollar, prediction of price spike

Oil prices shot up nearly $7 a barrel Friday, extending big gains from the previous day and racing toward an all-time high after a Morgan Stanley analyst predicted prices could hit $150 by the Fourth of July.
A further weakening of the dollar helped keep prices high by enticing overseas buyers armed with stronger currencies and other investors looking for a hedge against the greenback.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery jumped as much as $6.96 to $134.75 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, before easing slightly to trade at $134.40, up $6.61. In London, July Brent crude shot up $5.65 to $133.19 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Prices pushed sharply higher Friday after Morgan Stanley analyst Ole Slorer said he expected strong demand in Asia could drive prices to $150 by Independence Day, when millions of Americans are expected to take to the roads. Shipments from the Middle East are mimicking patterns seen in the third quarter last year, when Morgan Stanley based its "oil price spike" predictions on falling supplies in the Atlantic, he said.
"We made the same call using the same parameters, but now we are starting from much lower inventory levels," Slorer said.
Friday's surge builds on a $5.49 gain Thursday, which was the biggest single-day price increase in the history of the Nymex crude contract. That spike came as the dollar fell after the European Central Bank suggesting it could raise interest rates.
"We had a rally of something like $12 in about 24 hours. It makes no fundamental sense," said Stephen Schork, an analyst and trader in Villanova, Pennsylvania. "With oil pushing back up to the mid-$130s, it's the make it or break it point. If we go past that, we set the course for uncharted waters and head up toward $150."
The dramatic reversal in what had been a weakening oil market began Thursday after ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet suggested the bank could raise interest rates and the euro climbed against the dollar. When interest rates rise in Europe, or fall in the U.S., the dollar tends to weaken against the euro.
Many investors tend to buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the dollar is falling. Also, a weaker dollar makes oil less expensive to investors dealing in other currencies. Analysts believe the dollar's protracted decline has been a major reason why oil prices have nearly doubled in the past year.
The euro strengthened further against the greenback Friday. A Labor Department report showing the U.S. unemployment rate jumped half a percentage point to 5.5 percent last month _ its biggest monthly increase since 1986 _ could drag the greenback even lower in the days ahead.
"Unemployment jumping as it did today will be in the market for a long time and will continue to pressure the U.S. dollar," said James Cordier, president of Tampa, Florida-based trading firms Liberty Trading Group and OptionSellers.com.
Growing tensions in the Middle East may also have helped prop up oil prices. Israel sent aircraft, tanks and ground troops into the Gaza Strip on Friday, and a Cabinet minister hoping to replace embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying Israel will attack Iran if it doesn't abandon its nuclear program.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures rose 21.54 cents to $3.8962 a gallon while gasoline prices rose 12.32 cents to $3.4577 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 24.8 cents to $12.767 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Updated : 2021-05-18 21:09 GMT+08:00