Oil prices will rise for the foreseeable future, a Reuters poll found on Friday, marking the first time average forecasts have envisaged the extended rally has years to run.
Previous Reuters polls showed analysts overall predicted U.S. crude oil, viewed as the global price marker, would stop rising this year and fall in 2009-2010.
The June poll showed U.S. crude in 2008 would average $113.24 a barrel, up by about $6 from the last poll in late May. The average price would be $113.25 in 2009 and $115.59 in 2010. The average price for oil last year was $72.30.
North Sea Brent, another major price marker, is expected to average $112.02 this year, compared with $106.12 in the last poll. It will dip slightly next year and rise again in 2010.
Oil prices have surged beyond many analysts' expectations this year to a record high above $142 on Friday, forcing them to revise price assumptions repeatedly.
Although high prices have made some consumers use less fuel, the oil market has carried on rising because of robust demand from emerging markets such as China and India and concerns over future supply.
A complex mix of inflation, interest rates and a weak dollar has also attracted a large inflow of investors' money to oil.
"We have substantially raised our crude oil forecasts as the resilience of prices, even in the face of a withdrawal of speculative funds, has become increasingly evident,'' Helen Henton with Standard Chartered said in a research note.
Analysts' forecasts for U.S. crude this year showed a wide divergence of about $30.
Belgian-Dutch financial group Fortis had the most bullish short-term view, revising up its forecasts by about $40.
Fortis expected U.S. crude to average $125.70 this year, $171.50 next year and $224.90 in 2010, citing an expected drop in supplies from producers from outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. It said Brent will surge further to $227.60 in 2010.
Goldman Sachs, the most active investment bank in energy markets, forecast U.S. crude would average $125 this year and $148 next year.
In contrast, Royal Bank of Scotland raised forecasts for this year, while it lowered price forecasts next year to $86 for U.S. crude and $85 for Brent, one of nine banks placing forecasts below $100 next year.
"Slower economic growth will lead to a correction in demand, which will bring down prices," said Thorsten Fischer with Royal Bank of Scotland. "The problem is we do not know when this is going to happen."