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Oil prices are down and could sink lower.

By Ronald D. White

A year after the price of oil closed at an all-time high, prices are way downAuand may fall significantly as supply continues to dwarf demand. Downward pressure on oil prices is so great the commodity could trade for as little as $20 a barrel by the end of the yearAuless than one-third of what it traded for this week and an 86 percent drop from its peak last year, analysts said. That could push gasoline prices back down to $2 a gallon, prices not seen since last autumnAAEs slide slammed retail gasoline to its lowest value in four years. The reasons are simple, said Philip K. Verleger Jr., an expert on energy markets at the University of Calgary: the still-sputtering economy has lessened demand at a time when there is a big surplus of oil. For eight straight months, oil supplies have been running about 2 million barrels a day higher than the global demand of 83 million barrels a day, Verleger said. Eventually, he and others predicted, suppliers will tire of paying to store all of the surplus oil and flood the market. AoThat is the largest and longest continuous glut of supply that I have seen in 30 years of following energy prices. ItAAEs a huge surplus. There has never been anything like it,Ao Verleger said. The market eventually will correct itself, pushing prices down, Fadel Gheit, senior energy analyst for Oppenheimer and Co., wrote in a note to investors. AoExcessive speculation and a weak dollar have lifted oil prices to levels not sustainable by market fundamentals,Ao Gheit wrote. Oil has traded in the range of about $70 a barrel for much of the past month, closing Thursday at $66.73 per barrel. The markets were closed on Friday. With so much oil available and so little need for that amount, investors, oil companies and even some banks have bought and stored surplus oil everywhere they can. By one estimate, before oil surged to its high this year of $73.38 a barrel in June, as many as 67 supertankersAueach capable of carrying 2 million barrels of oilAuwere being used as floating storage. Verleger said it represented a largely risk free investment for those who could sell that oil for huge profits on the futures markets. But the glut has gone on for so long, he said, that the cost for all of that floating storage is bound to rise. When it rises enough, some will refuse to pay and a lot of that oil is going to be dumped onto the market. AoOil will drop to $20 a barrel by the end of the year because this situation just cannot be sustained,Ao Verleger said. LATWP News Servic

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Jul 6, 2009
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