Oil mixed in Asia, Brent crude nears USD 100

Singapore, Jan 17 (AFP) Oil was mixed in Asian tradetoday amid expectations that prices would soon hit USD 100 abarrel again, analysts said.

New York''s main contract, light sweet crude forFebruary delivery, eased two cents to USD 91.52 a barrel andBrent North Sea crude for March delivery was five cents higherat USD 98.43.

Optimism over the global economic recovery andinterest from bullish investors have been the twin driversbehind the surge in crude prices over the past week, analystssaid.

"The crude futures are quite close to USD 100 andspeculative traders have generally gone bullish on themarket," said Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst withenergy consultancy Purvin and Gertz.

"There are many investors betting on acceleratingglobal economic recovery, and so we have got these highprices," he told AFP.

The rise in global oil prices has been attributed to aharsh winter hitting Europe and parts of North America, aswell as growth in China and other developing nations.

Crude prices first touched USD 100 a barrel in January2008 and major oil producer Iran yesterday said it waspossible that this would happen again, but ruled out anemergency meeting by OPEC to discuss the matter.

"The price of 100 dollars is not unrealistic in thissituation," Iran''s Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi, whocurrently heads the OPEC cartel, told reporters yesterday.

"Even if the oil price crosses 100 dollars a barrelthere is no need for an emergency OPEC meeting. Some OPECmembers believe there is no need for an emergency meeting evenif oil reaches 110 or 120 dollars a barrel."

Iran is OPEC''s second largest crude exporter, andholds the world''s second largest gas reserves.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC), which pumps 40 percent of the world''s crude, has saidthat speculation was also fuelling the price rise. (AFP)

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