NEW YORK, Jan 28 (AFP): World oil prices rose strongly yesterday because of concerns for Middle East and African supplies and cold weather across Europe, analysts said.
The market was also gearing up for OPEC's latest meeting to discuss output levels next Tuesday in Vienna, where the oil- producing cartel is based.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, climbed 1.50 dollars to close at 67.76 dollars a barrel.
In London, the price of Brent North Sea crude for March delivery gained 1.32 dollars to finish at 66.24 dollars a barrel.
"The menace of export disruption from multiple sources at once is a genuine possibility," Fimat analyst John Kiduff said.
"The (Palestinian election) victory by Hamas has to ramp up concerns about energy security in the world's major producing region," he said. "The essential economic determinants of price simply do not explain current levels."
The abduction of four foreign workers combined with a series of deadly strikes against oil plants over the past three weeks has raised tensions in Africa's biggest oil exporter.
Nigeria's problems have stoked concerns over how much spare capacity the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has, despite promises by OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia to increase supplies if needed.
Market tensions have been exacerbated by the threat of UN sanctions hanging over Iran, OPEC's second-biggest exporter after Saudi Arabia, because of the Islamic republic's refusal to renounce its nuclear ambitions.
Iran is expected to raise the spectre of oil interruptions against the West at next week's OPEC meeting by lobbying the cartel to cut exports of crude.
Iran has already warned that high oil prices would result from any attempt to impose sanctions as punishment for its defiance over its nuclear programme. With the situations in Nigeria and Iran remaining volatile, Emori believes that oil prices are heading towards 70 dollars a barrel in the short term.
Last August, following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on US Gulf Coast energy installations, prices struck record highs in nominal terms of 70.85 dollars a barrel in New York and 68.89 dollars in London.