Oil prices are back around $100 a barrel, sending inflation-related shivers through the economy. Several analysts expect prices to temper...

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Oil prices are back around $100 a barrel, sending inflation-related shivers through the economy.

Several analysts expect prices to temper in the near term, but only somewhat.

Crude first breached $100 in early January, though it eased the next few weeks.

During that time, big investors bet on falling oil prices — “going short,” in trading parlance — on expectations that a global economic slowdown would hurt demand, Barclays Capital analysts say.

But Paul Horsnell, the firm’s head of commodities research, says that even with a weak U.S. economy, supply is tight and demand should continue to grow in developing countries.

“What happens now depends somewhat on whether the macro shorts re-emerge,” he says.

Barclays Capital on Wednesday boosted its forecast for average 2008 oil prices by more than $10 a barrel to $97.70.

Analysts say other factors, led by the falling dollar, have pushed up crude prices. A weak dollar boosts inflation fears, and oil is seen as an inflation hedge.

Oppenheimer analyst Fadel Gheit has long contended speculators are goosing the price and it no longer reflects true supply and demand. But he doesn’t expect “the current oil price bubble to burst anytime soon.”

He sees 2008 prices topping 2007’s average of $72.40 a barrel.

Other factors pushing up prices recently include Venezuela’s threats to cut off supply to the United States, violence in Iraq and hints that OPEC may cut output at a meeting next Wednesday.

But some analysts think oil prices may fall. Credit Suisse strategist Andrew Garthwaite says non-OPEC production will help boost supply.

“There have been four corrections of more than 25 percent since the oil bull market started in 1998,” he says. “Are we overdue for another?”

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst John Gerdes predicts production increases will push prices below $80 a barrel later this year.