Oil traded near the highest close in more than two years as Libya’s violent uprising threatened to disrupt exports from Africa’s third-biggest supplier and spread to crude-producing nations in the Middle East.
Futures for April delivery advanced as much as 0.7 percent today after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi vowed to fight a growing rebellion until his “last drop of blood.” London- traded Brent climbed from the highest settlement since September 2008. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will boost output if there is a supply shortage, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said yesterday.
“It’s still the risk that this contagion spreads to Saudi Arabia or Iran,” said Ben Westmore, a minerals and energy economist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Melbourne. “OPEC could step in and increase production to offset that if they needed to.”
Crude for April delivery was at $95.48 a barrel, up 6 cents, or 0.1 percent, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 12:55 p.m. in Singapore. The contract yesterday increased $5.71 to $95.42, the highest since October 2008. Futures are up 21 percent from a year ago.
The March contract, which expired at the close of floor trading yesterday, surged $7.37, or 8.6 percent, to $93.57.
Brent oil for April settlement climbed 57 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $106.35 a barrel, on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Yesterday, it gained 4 cents to $105.78, the highest settlement since Sept. 22, 2008.
Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter and the biggest producer in the OPEC, has 4 million barrels a day of spare capacity, al-Naimi said at a press conference at the ministerial meeting of the International Energy Forum in Riyadh. All the world’s producers, including Saudi Arabia, could pump an additional 6 million barrels, he said.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency said in a statement yesterday on its website that “the IEA stands ready, as always, to make oil available to the market in the event of a major supply disruption if alternative supplies cannot be made available via normal market mechanisms.”
New York crude’s relative strength index, a measure of how fast prices have risen or fallen, climbed to the highest in two months as oil rallied. The RSI was 68.70 today, compared with 44.29 on Feb. 18, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. A reading of 70 or more signals to some traders that a market is “overbought” and may drop. Brent’s RSI was 68.05.
Oil in New York has entered a “buying level” on technical charts that may trigger a rally to as high as $104 a barrel by next month, according to Societe Generale SA. Prices will extend gains if the market settles above $95.80, according to Stephanie Aymes, a cross-commodity technical analyst at Societe Generale in London.
“WTI will probably reach $100 a barrel, and I don’t think it will exceed $110 at all, unless the unrest spreads to the Gulf,” Ong Eng Tong, a consultant with Hamburg-based oil trader Mabanaft Gmbh, told Rishaad Salamat on Bloomberg Television’s “On the Move” program. “Crude is still not short at this moment.”
An Energy Department report tomorrow may show U.S. crude stockpiles rose for a sixth week, matching the longest streak of gains since May, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Supplies probably increased 1.13 million barrels in the seven days ended Feb. 18 from 345.9 million a week earlier.
Libya is the latest nation to be rocked by protests ignited by the ouster of Tunisia’s president last month and fanned by the Feb. 11 fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Turmoil has also spread to Bahrain, Iran and Yemen.
Countries in North Africa and the Middle East were responsible for 36 percent of global oil output and held 61 percent of proved reserves in 2009, according to BP Plc, which publishes its Statistical Review of World Energy each June.
Libya, which pumps 1.6 million barrels a day, is the ninth- largest producer in 12-nation OPEC, exporting most of its crude and fuels across the Mediterranean to Europe. The nation has the largest reserves in Africa.