SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices rose above $86 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as Libyan rebels fought pockets of resistance in the capital Tripoli and Muammar Gaddafi’s whereabouts remained unknown.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was up $1.61 to $86.03 at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose $1.86 to settle at $84.12 on Monday.
In London, Brent crude for October delivery was up 46 cents to $108.82 on the ICE Futures exchange.
Crude fell in early trading Monday amid reports rebels had overrun Tripoli and arrested two of Gaddafi’s sons. However, one of the sons, Saif al-Islam, later appeared free in front of a cheering crowd of Gaddafi supporters, putting into doubt who controlled the capital.
Investors were also questioning how fast Libya’s oil production could recover should the rebels take power. Fighting since February has cut the OPEC nation’s crude output to 60,000 barrels a day from 1.5 million, and the country’s oil infrastructure has been damaged.
Goldman Sachs said it was sticking by its forecast that Libya’s oil production will average 250,000 barrels a day next year.
“It will be challenging to bring the shut-in production back online,” Goldman Sachs said in a report. “We don’t change our production forecast until we have more clarity on the situation.”
A rally in stock markets, which oil traders see as a barometer of overall investor sentiment, also helped boost crude. Most stock indexes in Asia and Europe rose Tuesday.
Some analysts are optimistic Libyan oil production can quickly recover. Libyan crude output will likely return to pre-conflict levels in the first half of next year, said Richard Soultanian of NUS Consulting.
“With the new regime entirely dependent on oil revenues, the momentum to get facilities operational will be overwhelming,” energy consultant Cameron Hanover said in a report. “In order for this new democracy to attract enough support, it will need to get oil flowing right away.”
If Libyan production returns promptly, analysts expect the price of Brent to fall more than U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate because Libyan crude mostly supplied European markets.
“We continue to expect some fairly hefty falls in the price of Brent as the Middle East risk premium evaporates,” Capital Economics said in a report. “In particular, we expect Brent to drop back below $100 in a matter of weeks, if not days, and to $85 by 2012.”
In other Nymex trading for October contracts, heating oil rose 1.8 cents to $2.94 per gallon and gasoline futures added 1.0 cent to $2.72 per gallon. Natural gas for September delivery fell 0.9 cent to $3.88 per 1,000 cubic feet.