Oil set a record above a barrel on Thursday as a drop in United States gasoline inventories raised concern of tighter supply and a weak dollar boosted investor demand for commodities. A US government report on Wednesday showed a surprise drop in crude inventories and a larger-than-expected decline in stocks of petrol.
World oil demand will rise much less than expected in 2008 because of slower economic growth in the United States and other industrialised countries, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday. The IEA, adviser to industrialised countries, also pointed to a drop in oil inventories.
Opec is widely expected to resist consumer calls for more oil when it meets on Friday, worried by a slowing United States economy and the onset of seasonally lower demand in the spring. Oil has fallen to around a barrel from a record ,09 on January 3, easing pressure on Opec to pump more.
Oil at a barrel should give exporters every incentive to pump more, but their difficulty in doing so shows the world is struggling to sustain production. A growing number of leading industry figures now question mainstream forecasts for supply, suggesting the era of ''plateau oil'' is nearer than many had admitted.
The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) voiced concern on Tuesday over oil's relentless rise towards $88 a barrel, but some members said the exporter group can do nothing more to control the rally. Opec agreed last month to raise production by 500 000 barrels per day from November 1.
Oil surged to a record high above a barrel on Thursday on renewed worries over supply from major exporter Nigeria and as conflict between Israel and Lebanon heightened international tensions. Prices also rose as the Iran nuclear row headed back to the United Nations Security Council and North Korea walked out of talks with South Korea.