Chart watchers eye $70 peak for oil
Author: Colin Wooster
Crude's 60 percent run-up this year to $50 record highs has been driven in part by fund investors who use chart signals to guide many of their big-money bets.
With prices now in uncharted territory, technical analysts say the blistering rally shows few signs of slowing and suggest prices could peak at $70 - nearly $20 above current prices.
While momentum and relative strength indicators (RSI) are heavily overbought, normally signalling a selling opportunity, the rest of the market's behaviour suggest prices could well do the opposite and go higher, the analysts said.
"Shorting high RSI markets is extremely dangerous in a rampant bull market. A top will define itself only when prices climb sharply higher on heavy volume, but reverse to close at their lows," Edward Meir at Man Energy said.
"So far we are seeing the opposite. Losses or modest gains early in the day, with a strong finish by the close. This is hardly the sign of a market nearing its top."
SIX-YEAR BULL RUN
Crude's run above $53 on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and over $49 for London's Brent crude extends a near six-year bull run that has quintupled prices from December 1998 lows at $9.55 for Brent and $10.35 on NYMEX.
Phil Roberts at Barclays Capital said the longer NYMEX crude stayed above $47 a barrel the more likely it would become that the market was in the build up to a "classic commodity spike, suggesting $75 as a possible target."
All trend-following systems were positive, with no trend-ending patterns to lean against once the August high was breached, Roberts said.
"Against this backdrop we are wary of further near term gains and view dips as buying opportunities," he said.
While volumes have eased since crude's push above $50, last week's spell of high level consolidation and the strong gains this week suggested that sideways move was little more than a "bull market rest stop."
"Volume did dip slightly as $50 was tested which indicates the trend may be faltering, but this is the only comfort for bears," Barclays' Roberts said.
"Momentum is healthy, and with price and the nine-day RSI posting new highs in tandem there is no sign of divergence that would warn of a top," he added.
For upside targets on NYMEX crude, Walter Zimmermann at United Energy looked at equality-based projections, pegging the 1.618 percent Fibonacci projection at $69.45.
This is based on the $27.45 extent of the $10.35-$37.80 December 1998 to September 2000 advance, applied to the $25.04 April 2003 correction low on the monthly continuation chart.
A similar upside projection for Brent comes in around $65.
LITTLE DOWNSIDE RISK
Analysts said downside risk was likely to be limited with Brent likely to find good support around $46 and NYMEX crude ahead of $50.
They said strong momentum, with key RSIs into the 80s and Stochastic indicators into the 90s backed up by a slight upturn in 10-day averaged volume measures (Chaikin Oscillator) following this week's rally were likely to keep prices heading higher.
"Momentum can't be denied in this market and so we find ourselves in the next decade of crude oil gains, now atop $50 and perhaps headed for $60 absent some unforeseen catalyst for a wave of speculative selling," analysts at Refco said in a daily report.
"For now that event doesn't appear to be in the offing with both crude and heating oil firmly in record territory and gasoline at near term highs." the report said.
Analysts were keen to stress that any pull backs were likely to be limited to a bull market correction and few were prepared to pick a top as they continued to eye near-term targets at $60 for NYMEX crude and $50 for Brent.
"There is no more suggestion now than there was at $40 that a cap on prices is yet in place," analysts at Barclays Capital said in a daily report.
"So far, there has not yet been anything substantial enough in either fundamentals or the flow of news that could create a fire-break