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Oil: If prices top $100, expect 'demand destruction', says analyst

Oil prices have been rising since the summer amid a supply crunch. That has raised a question on Wall Street: How high can crude go before rising energy prices actually hurt demand?

On Tuesday West Texas Intermediate (CL=F) traded above $92 per barrel, while Brent crude futures (BZ=F) hovered over $95 per barrel.

"I think you need to see crude oil prices at $100 to $110 per barrel with gasoline prices rising to $4.00 to $4.25 per gallon to have the consumer change their driving habits resulting in demand destruction," Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, told Yahoo Finance.

Gasoline prices on Tuesday hovered around their 2023 highs, at a national average of $3.88 per gallon, according AAA.

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"Right now gasoline prices throughout the country are pricing in vast imperfections in supply and perfection in demand," Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at OPIS, told Yahoo Finance.

The prices of the various grades of gasoline available are displayed electronically on a pump at a filling station Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Newcastle, Wyo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
The prices of the various grades of gasoline available are displayed electronically on a pump at a filling station Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, in Newcastle, Wyo. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Energy prices have steadily increased since late June. Crude output cuts imposed by some of the world's largest oil producers in OPEC+ and unilateral reductions from Saudi Arabia have helped send crude futures up about 30% over the past three months.

Citi's global head of commodities research Ed Morse says oil could reach $100 per barrel and stay there for a "short while," but points to a pullback as increased supply from places like the US, Canada, Brazil, Iran, and Venezuela makes its way into the market. He also notes that "Saudi Arabia may yet reverse cuts if markets get too tight."

Jay Hatfield, CEO at Infrastructure Capital Management, told Yahoo Finance "it is entirely possible that WTI crude trades above $100 before supply and demand factors overwhelm momentum."

"We do believe that there will be substantial demand destruction at [WTI] prices above $95 per barrel, which will drive the commodity back into our fair value range," he added.

Higher oil prices are increasingly raising concerns of the impact on the broader economy at a time when the Federal Reserve is trying curb inflation.

Fed officials are expected to hold interest rates steady when they meet this week but still keep the door open to one more rate hike this year.

Energy prices, specifically gasoline, were the biggest culprit of August's hotter-than-expected Consumer Price Index print released last week.

Ines Ferre is a senior business reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @ines_ferre.

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