Oil prices close in on $50 a barrel

| Friday, August 20, 2004

Oil prices reached within a hair's-breadth of the $50 a barrel mark Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude oil for September delivery was listed on the exchange at $49.26 early Friday, Aug. 20. It went three cents higher at one point during the day, hitting $49.29.

Experts and media outlets listed a number of factors that contributed to the high price, which is a record. Among those:

  • High demand worldwide, including heavy increases due to industrialization in China;
  • The battle between Russian oil giant Yukos and that nation’s government. The company is currently fighting bankruptcy;
  • A lack of additional supply if there should be a spike in demand;
  • Attacks on the oil infrastructure in Iraq by insurgents; and
  • Fears of an attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

The Associated Press reported that some analysts are even considering the possibility that oil prices could rise as high as $60 a barrel.

In part, analysts say the problem is that every barrel of oil being produced is being consumed. In an analysis piece, The Wall Street Journal said that isolated disruptions in supply could push prices even higher than their current levels. The disruptions could include anything from a new government in Venezuela to a terror attack in the Middle East.

Increased demand by developing countries is another factor that could contribute to future high prices. Citing customs figures, Reuters news service reported that China’s oil imports in July were 41 percent higher than last year. Similarly, India’s imports were expected to increase 50 percent, according to that nation’s oil ministry, which was quoted by the news service.

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