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Are we there yet? Prospect of $100 oil
Longer-term bets based on high risk, depleting sources
By Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatch
Last Update: 7:06 AM ET Nov. 18, 2005  [ Page 1 | 2 ]
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SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- When it comes to the prospect of $100 oil prices, it's still a question of when, not if.

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Earlier this year, speculation over a spike past $100 a barrel was fed by terrorist activities, severe weather and political and economic uncertainties. In April, Goldman Sachs even warned of a "super-spike" period that could push oil to $105 per barrel.

But by late August, around the time when crude-futures prices reached a record level near $71 a barrel, MarketWatch's editor-in-chief questioned whether Hurricane Katrina had helped mark the peak for oil. See David Callaway.

And MarketWatch Columnist Tom Kilgore said a technical indicator may be suggesting an end to crude's uptrend. See Market Map.

"The $100 a barrel was never going to be a near-term expectation without a cataclysmic terrorist attack on a significant oil infrastructure," said Jason Schenker, an economist at Wachovia Corp.

Indeed, that price scenario was "always an exaggeration of a low-probability event," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research.

'What ever happened to $100 crude? It just got postponed -- that is, at least until the next hurricane season or some geopolitical bombshell'.

Agbeli Ameko, First Enercast Financial


When it comes down to it, traders must remember the reason crude reached record highs in late August. "There was a massive natural disaster that caused supply lines to shut down and we're still seeing the impact of," said Schenker. So "it would take something significantly greater than Katrina, Rita and Wilma combined" to get prices to $100.

Crude prices are down about 18% from their record high in Katrina's wake.

Even so, some analysts refuse to relinquish that triple-digit price, mainly because the world is depleting its oil reserves and there's never a shortage of price-supporting events.

"What ever happened to $100 crude? It just got postponed," said Agbeli Ameko, a managing partner at First Enercast Financial. "That is, at least until the next hurricane season or some geopolitical bombshell."

"In this 'peak-oil' and 'terror-premium' environment, the market will remain in reach of the $100 barrier," he said.

Risky access, depleting sources

Traders have been keeping a close watch on domestic and international supplies, but it's important to take a closer look at oil reserves and production to calculate just how much oil the world has left.

There's probably about 1 trillion barrels of oil left worldwide -- and 60% of that is in the Middle East.

Dan Hassey, Gold & Energy Advisor


There's probably about 1 trillion barrels of oil left worldwide -- and 60% of that is in the Middle East, said Dan Hassey, a senior research analyst for Boca Raton, Fla.-based Gold & Energy Advisor.

"Supplies are so tight and demand is growing and unfortunately, a lot of the supplies we get are [from] some very unstable places including ourselves, as we learned in the last couple of summers of hurricanes," he said.

Of the world's total, Saudi Arabia holds 23% of the proved oil reserves, or about 263 billion barrels, according to a report from the Gold & Energy Advisor, which based some of its figures on an article in Barron's. A total of about 30% comes from Iran, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates


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