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Brent back above $60 as 1986 fears fade

The price of oil continued its bumpy ride higher on Friday, with analysts feeling more confident that the commodity is set to climb in the coming months after its dramatic fall.

U.S. crude rose by nearly $1 a barrel on Friday, and was trading above $52 a barrel by 10:00 p.m GMT (5:00 a.m. EST). Brent crude for April delivery opened at $59 a barrel and rose above $60 a barrel for the first time this year.

The latter has seen gains of around 4 percent so far this week, tracking similar gains over the previous seven days.

While oil experts still expect a period of major volatility ahead, a growing number are more upbeat that prices could edge towards the $100-per-barrel level by year-end.

"The good news is that demand is responding and responding quite well," Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects, told CNBC Friday. "All the indications so far is that it's rising thanks to the lower oil prices. So I think there is some good news."

Sen said that she believes oil will be range-bound between $40 and $50 for the first half of 2015, before rising to $70 or $80 in the second half of the year.


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Alexander Korolkov | AFP | Getty Images

The dramatic fall in the price of oil—which tanked as much as 60 percent from mid-June last year—has been due to weak demand, a strong dollar and booming U.S. oil production, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

It was a reversal of those factors on Friday that drove markets higher. The dollar was a little weaker against a basket of currencies and major producer Total announced a cost-cutting program in the face of weaker price estimates.

Rig counts in the U.S., meanwhile, have continued to fall, according to oilfield services company Baker Hughes.

Some 87 rigs were deactivated in the week ending February 6, according to the firm, which came after a drop of 90 rigs the previous week - the largest absolute reduction in a single week since Baker Hughes started keeping records in 1987.

A team headed by Neil Beveridge, senior oil analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, were optimistic on oil prices.

In a research note on Thursday evening, they drew comparisons with the oil bust of the mid-1980s, when a supply glut caused prices to drop to just above $10 a barrel.

While the current volatility has provoked bad memories for some, Beveridge said he believed there were important differences indicating that history will not repeat itself.

"Spare capacity was significantly tighter and deflation in replacement costs likely smaller. We also expect demand could be more elastic than some expect," he said in the note.

"Oil prices may not recover back to $100 a barrel for several years, but the late 1980s showed it is possible that -- through cost cutting, restructuring and reform -- the sector will be able to outperform as companies shift strategies from growth to value."

Meanwhile, Giles Keating, global head of private banking and wealth management research at Credit Suisse, said the volatility in oil prices was "just crazy," with the commodity going through what he called a "complicated" bottoming process.

"We wouldn't rule out that we have new lows, but at the same time we think that the final equilibrium is probably going to be a bit above where we are now," he told CNBC Friday.