Oil prices reach $53

World oil prices have surged to new record levels, reaching $53 a barrel in New York markets already nervous about tight global supplies and approaching winter in the northern hemisphere.

    Problems in the Gulf of Mexico are adding to uncertainty

    Looming strike action in major oil producer Nigeria was adding further support to prices, analysts said.


    The price of reference light sweet crude for November delivery spiked at $53 a barrel in opening deals on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Thursday, the highest level in the contract's 21-year history.


    US crude futures later eased to $52.30, a gain of 28 cents from the day's previous closing price.




    In London, Brent North Sea crude oil for November delivery surged above $49 a barrel for the first time, hitting $49.20 a barrel in afternoon trading. It stood at $48.62 in late deals, a gain of 63 cents.


    "If we do have a particularly harsh winter I think supplies could struggle"

    Veronica Smart,
    UK energy analyst

    Prices continued their seemingly inexorable rise a day after the US Department of Energy reported a smaller-than-expected rise in US crude oil inventories and a fall in heating oil.


    Ongoing supply problems in the Gulf of Mexico were also causing concern.


    "There's a lot of concern surrounding the levels of stocks in the US," said Veronica Smart, an analyst at the Energy Information Centre, a British-based consultancy.


    "We're approaching winter when demand is obviously higher, particularly for gasoil. If we do have a particularly harsh winter I think supplies could struggle."


    In the event of a cold snap, "we could definitely see Brent breaking $50 a barrel and heading further up," she predicted.




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