Oil futures clung to a narrow range last Tuesday as the market braced for an expected Arctic blast in the United States that could drive up heating oil prices, while traders fretted over potential supply disruptions in Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iraq, news agencies reported.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery was at USD 45.79 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On London’s International Petroleum Exchange, February Brent crude was at USD 42.35 per barrel.
Colder weather, a chilling message from al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, prodding militants to strike at oil facilities in Saudi Arabia — the world’s largest exporter — to cripple distribution to the United States, and the situation surrounding YUKOS in Russia suggest that prices may climb higher in the future, former Greek Energy Minister Elefterios Verivakis told New Europe. In Iraq, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said last that insurgents were pushing for civil war. More than 60 people died in car bomb attacks in Najaf and Karbala in what appeared to be stepped-up attacks ahead of the country’s planned January 30 vote. Militants have warned that they consider oil pipelines, which provide much-needed cash for the Iraq’s rebuilding, to be a legitimate target. Crude prices have stayed high all year on supply fears, primarily from key producers Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria, Venezuela and Russia. Markets have also been jittery over reduced excess capacity and high demand although those worries have dissipated. Also last Tuesday, China, the world’s second largest consumer, said its demand for crude oil picked up in November, rising 45.6 percent on year to 11.12 million tons or 2.7 million barrels daily.