NEW YORK (AFP) — Oil prices retreated Thursday after New York prices had earlier rocketed to a record 96.24 dollars per barrel on worries over tight supplies, dealers said.
"The market is quite volatile, it is pretty choppy," BNP Paribas analyst Harry Tchilinguirian said in London.
After striking fresh highs, New York's main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in December, closed at 93.49 dollars a barrel, down 1.04 dollars from Wednesday's close.
Brent North Sea crude for December settled 91 cents lower at 89.72 dollars a barrel after earlier striking an all-time peak of 91.71 dollars.
All eyes were on whether the price of crude would soon reach 100 dollars.
"It's a tough one to call because a lot of people are expecting it and perhaps hoping for it," Tchilinguirian said.
The market was digesting a US Department of Energy report from Wednesday showing that US crude inventories had tumbled by 3.9 million barrels last week against forecasts for a gain of 400,000 barrels.
"At this time of year, we should certainly be substantially building stocks, so to get draws on crude is never good for the refining industry and it shows that the market is decidedly nervous," said Robert Laughlin, a broker at Man Financial.
Oil prices were also been boosted by the Federal Reserve's move Wednesday to cut US interest rates by a quarter-point to 4.50 percent. That pushed the European single currency up to a record 1.4504 dollars.
A weak US unit encourages oil demand because it makes dollar-priced commodities cheaper for buyers using stronger currencies.
Oil prices have surged by some 50 percent over the past year although adjusted for inflation, they remain below levels reached after the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Current prices would have to go just above 100 dollars to reach outright, as well as nominal records, according to economists' calculations.
However, Laughlin warned that oil prices were unsustainable at 100 dollars in the long run.
"While this may be a short-term spike on the upside, be very very cautious about advertising long-term crude prices above 100 dollars," he said.
"I think this ultimately will be an opportunity to sell."
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