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Oil price forecasts edge up more for 2013

An average of analysts' oil price predictions polled by Reuters edged higher again for the fourth consecutive month in March, tempering expectations of a 2013 oil price down on the previous year. Reuters' monthly survey of 27 analysts forecasts Brent will average $110.80 per barrel in 2013 - up from last month's $110.10 average prediction - down from $111.70 last year.

The poll suggests forecast the downward trend will continue, with Brent averaging $108.80 in 2014 and $107.80 in 2015. The forecast for 2013 implies Brent will trade below its average so far this year of around $112.90, "We envision a rather tepid demand-driven outlook for crude oil throughout much of 2013," said GAIN Capital analyst Chris Tevere, who expects Brent to average $108 in 2013.

Most analysts expect global oil supplies to improve this year, with surging non-Opec supplies from shale formations in the United States and oil sands and bitumen in Canada. "On top of the rapid increase in North American oil output, we also expect the return of oil supply from Sudan, increases in North Sea oil loadings and potentially an easing of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa," said Abhishek Deshpande of Natixis.

"A resolution of the Iranian situation could potentially flood the markets with excess supply, putting further downward pressure on oil prices," said Deshpande, who sees Brent averaging $109.30 in 2013. Societe Generale oil analyst Michael Wittner expects Saudi Arabia to continue to balance the physical markets with proactive production cuts.

The poll forecast US light crude oil, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, will average $95.70 a barrel in 2013, above last year's average of $94.15. New oil pipeline infrastructure is expected to ease the pressure on WTI, which has been weighed by the rapid increase in shale oil production.

Twelve analysts expected Brent in 2013 to average more than $110, the median of the forecasts. Barclays had the highest Brent price forecast at $125 for 2013, while Citigroup had the lowest forecast at $99. Analysts expect the euro zone to remain a drag on prices.

"We had already expected oil prices to fall back in the second half of the year as the global economic recovery disappointed and the crisis in the euro zone flared up again, but softer manufacturing data and recent events in Cyprus suggest that weakness may come sooner," said Capital Economics' analyst Julian Jessop. "Indeed, we don't think the world economy is strong enough to sustain Brent above $100, especially given the fiscal tightening to come in the advanced economies."

Copyright Reuters, 2013