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Crude Reality: UK Oil Seen Hitting $200 as Supplies Dry Up

Wednesday, 21 Mar 2012 02:49 PM

Brent crude, the European blend that sells for just shy of $20 more than U.S. crude, could hit $200 a barrel in the coming months thanks to tight supplies, experts say.

Even though Saudi Arabia is pumping out the most crude in decades and even though Libyan crude lost during the recent civil unrest is coming back on line, there's just not enough out there to meet demand in the U.S., Europe and emerging economies like China, India and elsewhere.

Brent futures for May delivery are trading around $124 a barrel, while U.S. crude is hovering around $107 a barrel.

The actual price when money changes hand and the oil is shipped can be higher in many cases, and could hit $200.

"The seaborne oil market is extremely tight," a trader tells CNBC.

"As much as the politicians love blaming speculators, if the market was up on speculation and not fundamentals, the physical market would be trading at a discount."

Analysts at Goldman Sachs agree.

"We expect fundamentals will continue to tighten during 2012,” the firm says in a report, adding supply issues were "pushing prices toward our 2013 Brent crude oil price target of $130 [per barrel]. With OPEC spare capacity and inventories low, the balance of risk to crude oil prices remains skewed to the upside."

A growing U.S. economy is also pressuring prices higher, as a healthier country needs more oil and derivatives to expand.

If unemployment rates continue to fall and other indicators surprise on the upside, crude will keep on climbing globally, especially if tensions with Iran drag on.

"The market is anticipating additional favorable U.S. economic news," energy trader and consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates says in report, according to the Associated Press.

"And until concerns ease regarding Iranian risk, the market appears capable of maintaining price gains, especially if equities remain strong."

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