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Oil May Gain This Week, Traders Monitor Gulf of Mexico Oil Slick: CNBC Survey

Monday, 3 May 2010 | 5:03 AM ET

Benchmark oil prices may gain this week despite pressure from the escalating sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone, which may prompt investors to flee risk assets including commodities and find a refuge instead in the relative safety of the U.S. dollar.

Oil Barrels
Oil Barrels

A key downside risk to the oil price remains the currency markets as they respond to the evolving debt crisis in Europe.

Rachel Ziemba at Roubini Global Economics describes her call on the market this week as "neutral but volatile." She added: "Broader financial market trends in the dollar/euro should be the driving force."

Still, despite the risk of more volatility, improving macro-economic indicators in the U.S. are helping put a floor in the price.

U.S. Light, Sweet Crude hovered above $86 a barrel on Monday.

Looking back on April, prices climbed nearly 3 percent marking the third gain in as many months. This week, three out of six respondents forecast prices will climb, one respondent is calling for a drop and two expect prices to be little changed.

The nonfarm payrolls report for April, due on Friday, will be a crucial driver for commodity markets. Data is expected to show the economy added 200,000 jobs -- up from 162,000 in March, according to economists polled by Reuters.

Mike Sander of Sander Capital Advisors, who has a 'neutral' call on the market this week, expects fallout from the unfolding Eurozone debt crisis to be limited on the oil markets.

"Even if the Euro breaks up, it doesn't seem to be having an effect on the price," he said. "With oil still at $85 a barrel, the market is telling us demand for this commodity will still be here if the E.U. losses Greece or additional countries. Companies and consumers around the world will still move forward."

Oil Spill

Traders will also be closely watching for possible disruption to tanker shipping after a massive oil spill from the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil in the Gulf of Mexico, which exploded on April 20 killing 11 of the 126 crew.

"The potential disruption of oil tanker traffic in the US Gulf of Mexico is already having an impact on oil prices," Goldman Sachs analysts said in a report on Friday. "Both WTI timespreads and the WTI-Brent spread tightened substantially on news that waterways surrounding the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) could be blocked by the spill as early as Friday, and traffic of oil service boats and oil tankers through the Gulf will likely be slowed."

However, JPMorgan energy analysts led by Lawrence Eagles said these fears are "overblown" since the U.S. authorities had sufficient emergency supplies in the Strategic Petroleum reserve to release to cover any shortfall.

"This type of outage is a classic situation that the SPR was designed to mitigate, and there have been previous instances where the EIA has released crude in response to significant Gulf of Mexico outages or disruptions to shipping," according to JPMorgan's Oil Markets Weekly report.

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