After staging a 50 percent rally between February and March, oil prices have bounced around, moving up or down on a given day depending on the news cycle.
The persistent glut and rising storage levels weigh on crude prices, but falling production levels provide some reason for optimism. On March 29, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen struck a dovish note on interest rates, buoying stock markets around the world and sparking a rally in oil prices.
Most market analysts expect the crude oil markets to come into balance in 2016, with an eye on the second half of the year. One of the big unknowns is the pace of global oil demand growth. The slowing economy in China, in particular, has contributed to a much longer slump in prices than the markets anticipated.
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But Credit Suisse says that market analysts and oil traders are too gloomy. Global demand growth dropped to a 1.2 percent annual growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2015, down from 2 percent earlier in the year. That fueled worries of a worldwide economic slowdown, particularly in January and February of this year. Credit Suisse sees that as a fleeting phenomenon rather than a sign of an extended slowdown.
The bank is predicting oil prices hit $50 per barrel as soon as May on the back of rising demand. "Oil demand growth is alive and well," Jan Stuart, an economist with Credit Suisse Group AG Global Energy, wrote in a recent report. "We think that with hindsight this winter will look like a dip in an otherwise still unfolding fairly strong growth trend that is partly fueled by the ongoing economic recovery of in North America and Europe and longer standing trends across key emerging market economies."
Credit Suisse points to a pickup in demand in February in the U.S., Brazil, India, South Korea, and China. As a result, we could see $50 oil within a month or two.
The forecast stands in stark contrast to some other analysts. Barclays, for example, sees the potential for oil prices to fall back to the low-$30s in the short run as speculators start to retreat from their recent buildup in bullish positions.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com