Goldman Sachs analyst Arjun N Murti is no ordinary forecaster. But in March 2005, when crude oil was trading at $55 a barrel in the global market, he was scoffed at for predicting that oil prices would experience a 'super spike' and cross $105 a barrel.
No one is laughing at him anymore. In fact, people are shivering at his latest forecast: crude oil prices may touch $200 in the next two years, says a New York Times report.
With oil prices smashing past $135 a barrel for the first time on Thursday, continuing the astonishing rise following unexpected drops in US crude and gasoline stocks in a tight market, the 39-year-old Murti's prediction seems frightening close to turning into reality.
Although other analysts argue that market speculation may bring down the prices drastically, Murti is of the opinion that that the oil price will definitely stay above $100 till 2011.
This, says the NYT report, is indeed a matter of concern for the US where with $200 oil, gasoline could cost more than $6 a gallon.
But Murti, owner of two hybrid cars, is unperturbed. "I'm actually fairly anti-oil," says the man, who grew up in New Jersey. "One of the biggest challenges our country faces is our addiction to oil," he was quoted by NYT as saying.
Murti does not believe that his reports affect market prices. "Whenever an analyst upgrades a stock or downgrades a stock, sometimes you get a reaction that day, but beyond a day, fundamentals win out," he told NYT.
Murti is of the opinion that supply is likely to remain tight because of geopolitical factors. A declining production in non-OPEC countries like Britain, Norway and Mexico, is adding to the world's oil woes.
In predicting oil prices, he is joined by Boone Pickens, the oilman- turned-corporate raider.
According to the report, Pickens forecast last Tuesday that crude would touch $150 this year. Thomson Financial, however, sees prices falling as low as $70 a barrel by year-end.
Experts debate over reasons for oil price rise, the NYT report states. They cannot pin point the cause -- is it less supply, increasing demand or sheer speculation that hiked the price?
A faint ray of optimism, however, can be traced in opinions by analysts who think supply will be put into the market by stealth by OPEC this year. That would definitely bring prices down, they predict.
Whatever the case, oil analysts like Murti are hitting the headlines for the moment.
"It's become a very fashionable area to write about," said Kevin Norrish, a commodity analyst at Barclays Capital. "And to try to get attention from people, people are coming out with all sorts of numbers."
His sudden rise to fame, however, ruffles Murti. He dislikes giving interviews and does not like being photographed. Instead he likes doing what he does best -- foreseeing the future of oil.
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