Oil's shaky rise toward $100

Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

Oil prices are trading around their highest levels since late 2014 and have clearly abandoned — at least for now — the $70 to $80 neighborhood where Brent lurched around in the spring and summer.

Where it stands: Brent crude slipped back a bit to around $84.61 while U.S. benchmark WTI trades around $75.31, as of publication this morning.

The big picture: The recent surge thanks to looming U.S. sanctions against Iran, Venezuela's ongoing decline and other forces is reviving talk among analysts in recent days of oil hitting $100 in the coming months.

  • For instance, per Reuters, "HSBC said in its fourth quarter Global Economics outlook that 'our oil analysts believe there is now a growing risk it (crude) could touch $100 per barrel.'"

Why it matters: Prices going a lot higher could create global economic headwinds and hit consumers and oil-reliant industries, even as it boosts revenues for oil producing states.

  • As the Wall Street Journal notes in a weekend piece about $100 chatter, "more expensive oil could threaten U.S. corporate profits and indirectly push prices for a variety of goods higher."
  • Bloomberg tallies winners and losers here.

What's next: If the trajectory stays upward in coming weeks, it could create political headwinds for Republicans and tempt the White House to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

But, but, but: A Barclays research note this morning suggests that maybe everyone should just chill out.

  • "[W]e continue to believe that prices are ripe for a correction," writes analyst Michael Cohen, though he notes prices could keep climbing in the near-term.
  • "The rally could go even further this month, leading US policymakers, consumers, OPEC, and Saudi Arabia to react. In our view, softening demand growth and new supply should cool the bullish sentiment and push prices lower by the end of the year," Cohen writes.
  • Barclays has slightly adjusted its price forecasts upward. They now see Brent averaging $77 in the fourth quarter, compared to $72 in a prior forecast.

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