OPEC eyes $100-a-barrel oil

CAIRO — Oil importers are growing wary of the impact of prices near two-year highs as some OPEC members foresee a further rally to the $100-a-barrel level and Arab oil ministers gather for a meeting in Cairo.

Japan's economy minister said Friday the government needs to keep an eye on climbing prices while the deputy governor of the Chinese central bank said inflation pressures are rising.

Shokri Ghanem, chairman of Libya's National Oil Corp., was the latest OPEC official to forecast $100. Iran and Venezuela have also said that represents a fair price while Saudi Arabia, the group's biggest exporter, said it prefers prices centered on $75, a level that oil has traded above since September.

"An issue for OPEC will obviously be prices edging higher," said Bill Farren-Price, CEO of Britain-based consultants Petroleum Policy Intelligence. "The issue is whether we're in a new rally and for now the jury's out on that. And I don't think anyone in OPEC would disagree with that."

Brent crude oil on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange advanced 21 percent this year, and traded Friday as high as $94.74 a barrel. Crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange have gained 15 percent so far this year.

Ghanem, Libya's top oil official, told reporters Thursday that oil will rise to $100 a barrel. He was speaking in Cairo before a meeting today of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries. OAPEC, as the Arab group is known, includes several members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the broader 12-nation group that influences prices by setting supply quotas.

Global oil consumption is expected to rise to a record level next year, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency and other forecasters.