Libya keeps oil prices on upward trajectory

06 March 2011

Crude basket rises almost $3 a barrel amid continued conflict

The 12-crude basket of exports from the member states of the international oil producers group Opec remained above $100 a barrel at $108.27 a barrel on 3 March, the last date for which prices were available, up from $105.33 on February 23.

In Europe, Brent crude prices were at $116.00 a barrel at the end of trading on 23 February, slightly down from 23 February, when it was valued at $116.33 a barrel.

The US’ benchmark October West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract was trading at $101.93 a barrel on 3 March.

Oil prices have continued their climb in the face of continued uncertainty over the political situation in the Middle East. Libya, in particular, played on the minds of market participants, as the conflict between Qaddafi loyalists and opposition forces reportedly escalated.

 “Persistent uncertainty in the Mena region continues to support fears of contagion, while lost output from countries such as Libya and the increasing likelihood of a push back in foreign investment is set to support longer-term prices even further,” say analysts at Barclay’s Capital.

The violent standoff has reduced Libyan oil output by as much as 1 million barrels a day, the International Energy Agency said.

On 3 March, prices eased amid speculation the Arab League is considering a peace plan for Libya.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the plan, devised by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, was “under consideration”.

“The ‘peace plan’ for Libya obviously knocked the market lower, but it doesn’t seem to be having more than a passing impact on prices, which will probably head higher again,” said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank.

Crude stockpiles in the US have fallen to 1,778 million barrels in the week ending 25 February, down from 1,784 million a week earlier, according to the US Energy Department, extending the drop in demand to seven consecutive weeks.

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