Oil up on persistent unrest in Egypt; positive US

U.S. crude futures edged above $89.05 a barrel, recovering from a near 2 percent drop in the previous session, supported by the political crisis in Egypt and a drop in the U.S. unemployment rate to a 21-month low.

Oil prices were also buoyed by comments made by OPEC members at the weekend. Kuwait said oil prices could exceed $110 a barrel if Egypt’s unrest continued, and Venezuela said prices could more than double to $200 if the Suez Canal closed.

Iran — which holds the rotating OPEC presidency — said there would be no need for an emergency OPEC meeting even if oil prices hit $120.

U.S. crude for March climbed 7 cents to $89.10 a barrel, while ICE Brent rose 43 cents to $100.26 a barrel.

“It could be possible for U.S. crude value to rise above $95.00 a barrel next week, but that would likely be unsustainable. The unrest in Egypt will be resolved,” said Benson Wang of Commodity Broking Services in Sydney.

“OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is more than happy to see those levels, and job data in the U.S. is also positive, but in my opinion, $90 a barrel is going to hurt the economy’s recovery.”

Egypt controls the Suez Canal and the Suez-Mediterranean (SUMED) oil pipeline, which together moved over 2 million bpd of crude and oil products in 2009.

More than 34,000 vessels passed through the canal in 2009, of which nearly 2,700 were oil tankers carrying some 29 million tones of oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Venezuela’s oil minister Rafael Ramirez, who is usually hawkish on prices, said that OPEC would call an emergency meeting if the canal closed.

“There is sufficient oil (in the market) and there have been no interruptions, but if they close Suez, that could take the oil price to $200,” he told reporters.

OPEC members will meet with consumers at an energy conference in Riyadh on February 22 and are expected to talk informally about output levels.

(Source: Reuters)


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