Soaring oil price could hit motorists, analysts warn


Analysts are warning that motorists face paying more at the pumps after the price of oil hit a two-year high today.

Mounting tension over Iraq and a continuing strike in Venezuela helped push the cost of crude up to $33 a barrel today.

Analysts warn the hike could feed through to petrol prices if the increase is sustained.

Ms Hilary Cook, director of investment strategy at Barclays Private Clients in London said: "If prices stay up, then inevitably we will see price increases at the pumps, although oil companies do try and smooth it out.

Opec - the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries - has a target range of between $22 - $28 a barrel which it works to sustain by increasing or decreasing output.

Oil companies are under pressure to increase prices as a result of rises in the price of petrol on the refined market.

London's Brent crude opened up 44 cents at $30.60 a barrel, while February US light crude futures jumped to $33.17 a barrel, marking a 45-cent gain from Friday's close and the highest since December 1st, 2000.

US crude futures for March delivery were also strong, gaining 43 cents to $32.23.

"We're seeing a continuation of the bull run from the last two weeks. The Venezuelan strike is still on, Saudi Arabia looks like it will let the US use its airbases for an attack on Iraq and the market appears to be pricing any attack into March," said a broker in New York.