Up, up and away

Oil prices could still rise sharply in the coming months, two large investment banks have warned.

Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) said oil could spike at $50 to $60 a barrel in the next year, while Deutsche Bank said this year is set to be the sixth successive one in which analysts have underestimated the strength of crude oil prices.

CSFB said hopes of a return to a ”normal” oil price have evaporated over the past year. ”We seem to have entered a new phase of ‘energy insecurity’ where higher, more volatile oil prices are the norm,” it said.

”We suggest somewhere around $30 a barrel [for West Texas Intermediate measure] may be the effective ‘floor’ for oil prices for some time, and that it cannot be ruled out that oil prices briefly trade in the $50 to $60 range within the next 12 months.”

The bank’s analysts said ”in principle” prices should revert to a $30 to $35 range, as global growth and demand slows next year. But, political instability or further disruption to production could mean a temporary spike. CSFB says such oil shocks may be beneficial. Adjustment would be ”difficult and dangerous”, but the world’s economy is more adaptable than in the 1970s.

”It may well stimulate a longer-term boom in energy investment, conservation and switching to alternative fuels that turn out to be a longer-term positive for the economy, the planet and geopolitical stability.”

Deutsche Bank reiterates its view that prices will continue to rise, saying it is currently only in line with its historical average relative to incomes in the world’s seven largest economies. On that measure, even $80 would not be unusual by 1974 to 1985 averages.

”In real terms, and relative to G7 per capita incomes, oil prices are not yet at extreme levels and producers and consumers must position for further price highs in the weeks ahead,” said Michael Lewis, head of commodities research. — Â

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