Global oil prices are unlikely to average less than $100 (Dh367) a barrel this year as expansion in the world's largest economy the US, burgeoning demand from Asian growth engines China and India, Iran's nuclear issues with the West and fears of supply disruption prevent a precipitous fall in the world's most widely-traded commodity, say experts.
On Friday, London's Brent crude oil fell 9 cents to settle at $119.83. Brent had a nearly 1 per cent weekly gain but remained on pace to post a more than 2 per cent monthly loss.
US crude rose 38 cents to settle at $104.93 a barrel, having reached $105. The weekly gain was 1.8 per cent, on track for a similar monthly rise.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast global oil demand at 89.9 million barrels a day for 2012, a rise of 0.9 per cent over 2011.
"With demand-side risks looking evenly balanced, market direction over the rest of 2012 will hinge largely on the prospects for supply. We retain a fairly cautious view on the recovery in non-Opec production from recent outages, but nonetheless see growth accelerating in the second half of 2012," said the Paris-based IEA which advises 28 industrialised countries on energy policy in its latest oil market report.
It added: "The underlying crude price assumption has been raised. Brent crude now averages $115 per barrel for 2012, nearly $10 more than assumed for 2012 in the fourth quarter of 2011."
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday also raised its forecast for global growth for 2012, but said prospective gains remain fragile.
In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF slightly upgraded its growth forecast for 2012 from 3.25 per cent to 3.5 per cent, accelerating to 4.1 per cent in 2013.
IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard characterised the past six months as a "roller-coaster" ride for the world economy, defined by the European debt crisis. He said the debt crisis still remains the biggest threat, along with high oil prices. The IMF thinks the US economy should expand at 2.1 per cent this year, while in Europe the economy is likely to shrink by 0.3 per cent because of the ongoing debt crisis.
The IMF said improved activity in the United States and better policies to deal with the European economic situation have reduced the threat of a sharp downturn. The IMF also said China's economic growth is expected to remain above 8 per cent this year.
Saeed Hirsh, an oil expert at London-based Capital Economics Ltd, told Gulf News that if oil prices were to continue to rise, this will eventually put the anaemic global recovery in reverse.
"This will eventually backfire on oil exporters, given that if this eventually leads to a global recession, oil prices could come down rapidly. As for our forecast, we think that Brent crude prices will end the year at around $95 per barrel, which means that we expect prices to average $110 per barrel this year [compared to $111 last year]," said Hirsh.
"As to what windfall gains mean for the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], probably the best way to look at it is that for every additional dollar on the average oil price, the GCC's total exports increase by over $6 billion in one year [at the current production levels]. In relation to the UAE, an additional dollar on the average oil price means that export revenues increase by around $1 billion in one year. So this is substantial," he added.
Samuel Ciszuk, consultant at the UK-based KBC Process Technology Ltd, said, "For some time we have been seeing the oil markets as very well supplied, despite recent disruptions in South Sudan, Yemen, Syria, the North Sea and Canada among others and given the traditionally lower second quarter demand.
"We think the market might indeed be about to turn a corner as soon as April.
"Geopolitical tensions might continue to influence prices on the bullish side and the Iranian nuclear talks in the coming week will be a first and strong indication of where we will be heading in the coming months with regards to the risk premium," said Ciszuk.
He said fundamentally, however, rising production in Iraq, Libya, Angola and Nigeria, together with existing high production in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE will more than enough offset Iran's anticipated decline during the second to the third quarter and onwards.
"We have good hope that non-Opec shut-ins will decrease substantially too, from the high February-March levels. Not to forget, there is significant non-Opec output growth expected in the second half of the year, which should further improve the supply situation and even ease the pressure on Opec to produce at these current levels," said Ciszuk.
He said that he didn't really see oil prices going up from here, unless something radical and unforeseeable happens either on the supply or geopolitical front.
"Even with prices easing however, Gulf states are placed to collect very significant windfalls, with the UAE in particular benefiting from this, given that its role as a financial hub in the region means that a portion of its neighbours' windfalls also pass through its financial sectors," said Ciszuk.
Robin Mills, head of consulting at Dubai-based Manaar Energy, told Gulf News the recent gains in oil prices have obviously been good for the financial position of the GCC countries. But expenditure has also risen sharply, including in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE's federal budget, and this may be a problem if and when oil prices fall and spending has to be cut again.
"It seems that conditions are moving towards a fall in oil prices (always assuming that there are no more crises such as military conflict over Iran and so on. Oil production in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Iraq is close to record highs and a significant amount of recent apparent demand seems to have been due to building strategic stocks in the US and China to cover for Iran. European demand is particularly weak due to the continuing economic crisis," Mills added.
Meanwhile, top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is determined to bring down high oil prices and is working with fellow Opec members to accomplish that, its Oil Minister Ali Al Nuaimi said last week.
Brent crude prices have risen nearly 13 per cent this year, threatening a nascent recovery of the global economy. Oil has traded above $100 for all but a couple of days in the past year.
"We are seeing a prolonged period of high oil prices," Al Nuaimi said in a statement during a visit to Seoul. "We are not happy about it. [The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] is determined to see a lower price and is working towards that goal."
The influential Saudi oil minister earlier this year identified $100 a barrel as an ideal price for producers and consumers.
Concerns of a supply shortage due to production problems in some producing countries and as US and European sanctions target exports from Opec's second-largest producer Iran have helped keep Brent crude well above that mark.
Al Nuaimi reiterated that there were no supply shortages in the global oil market and the kingdom stood ready to use its spare production capacity if necessary.
Saudi Arabia is pumping 10 million barrels per day, he said. Output at that level would be the highest since November, when the kingdom produced more oil than it had done for decades. Al Nuaimi reiterated that production capacity stands at 12.5 million bpd.
"The story is one of plenty," he said. "Supply is not the problem."
Saudi stockpiles at home and abroad were full, said Al Nuaimi. Inventories in industrialised countries were also filling up, he added.
Abu Dhabi: The UAE's oil production increased by 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 2.65 million bpd, the highest level since June 2008, latest figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) show.
"March Opec's [Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries] supply held near three and a half-year highs, rising by 135,000 bpd to 31.43 million bpd. Increased output by Iraq, Libya, Kuwait and the UAE more than offset declines in Iran, Angola and Nigeria," said the Paris-based IEA, which advises 28 industrialised countries on their energy policy.
The country's oil output had averaged 2.59 million bpd in February, the data showed. Last year, the UAE pumped on average 2.50 million bpd, higher than the 2.31 million bpd it pumped in 2010.
Abu Dhabi's most popular crude grade — Murban's official selling price was $127 a barrel, followed by $126.60 for Lower Zakum, $126.20 for Umm Shaif and $124.45 for Upper Zakum.
Abu Dhabi, which produces more than 90 per cent of UAE oil, is investing heavily to boost its crude output.
The UAE intends to increase its oil production capacity to 3.5 million bpd by 2018 from 2.7 million bpd to meet the rising global oil demand.
Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (Adco) is hopeful new capacity of 213,000 bpd will come on stream in 2012. Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company (Adma-Opco), majority-owned by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), plans to invest at least $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) developing two offshore fields to boost the firm's crude output by 60 per cent by 2017.