The oil price moved closer to $50 a barrel for the first time since November, on growing supply disruptions in Nigeria and a more positive assessment of the market from Goldman Sachs, the most bearish of leading commodity banks.
Militant threats to pipelines in Nigeria, an important Opec producer, are the latest fillip for an oil price that has also benefited from a booming petrol market and rising demand in India.
Anxiety over supply has also been fanned after Nicolás Maduro, Venezuelan president, announced plans on Friday to extend his government’s emergency powers — a reminder to investors of the deepening political instability in another Opec member.
Supply disruptions globally are likely to average more than 3m barrels a day this month, with Nigerian output at its lowest level in decades.
“Developments in Nigeria and the increasingly tense situation in Venezuela?.?.?.?make a breach of the $50 this week a strong possibility,” said David Hufton of PVM, an oil broker.
Brent, the global crude benchmark, jumped more than 3 per cent to $49.47, a six-month high. Meanwhile West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, rose 3.2 per cent to $47.72.
The spectre of diminished supply and strengthening demand was enough to prompt Goldman analysts to lift their forecast for WTI. They said the US benchmark would average $45 a barrel during the second quarter, up from an estimate of $35 in March.
Brent has rallied more than 75 per cent since hitting a low for the year in late January, helped by supply disruptions and a conviction among investors that the market will rebalance this year as demand improves and high-cost producers curb output.
Last week the International Energy Agency, one of the leading energy forecasters, said it was more likely to increase than to cut its demand growth forecast because of the booming global petrol market and India’s rising thirst for crude.
Goldman raised its global demand forecast by 200,000 barrels to 1.4bn yesterday, citing strong demand in India.
But the bank was still cautious on the oil outlook, and warned that the market could move into surplus in the first quarter of 2017 because of rising supplies from low-cost Opec producers and fewer supply disruptions.
It was possible oil would be trading at $45 a barrel in the first quarter of next year, the bank added.
Hedge funds and other money managers are growing more nervous about the oil price after the big rally from January lows. Last week they cut their net long position in WTI and Brent — the difference between bets on rising and falling prices — by 18m barrels to 218m.
“Supply is resilient and still growing, particularly with the return of supply from Iran,” said Adam Longson, analyst at Morgan Stanley.
“The latest reports out of US producers are no better and suggest that US production is unlikely to fall as much as the currently low price environment would suggest.”
“供应颇有韧性，且仍在增长，特别是在伊朗恢复供应的情况下，”摩根士丹利(Morgan Stanley)分析师亚当?朗森(Adam Longson)表示。