The $100 oil bet: from blue collar to blue chip

LONDON Fri Nov 2, 2007 8:25am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil's rally to record price highs has sparked a rush of bets on just how far it can go -- from workers in London's East End to Manhattan industry gurus.

"They're usually well-to-do customers, and they generally bet the market will go up, we've seen an increase lately," said Jos Evans, a trader at IG Index, an online betting company.

Away from the glass towers of financial districts punters are just as keen.

"I'd put 100 pounds that oil will go up because America has a shortage," said Londoner Jeff Hicks, a self-styled unemployed entrepreneur in an East End betting shop. "The U.S. wouldn't have invaded Iraq if they weren't short of oil."

U.S. oil prices hit a record $96 on Thursday following a slump in inventories and a Federal Reserve interest rate cut.

Industry insider and writer on oil Matthew Simmons bet $5,000 with a New York Times columnist that oil prices would reach $200 in 2010.

Simmons calculates that $65 a barrel translates to 10 cents a cup, still 10 times cheaper than bottled water

Others use less refined analysis.

"I'd bet on oil going up because governments are crap and refineries get on fire," said Charlie Ryan, a gas worker spending his evening at a betting shop in London's gritty Mile End.

The odds of oil prices hitting the $100 mark by Christmas day are 13-8, according to bookmaker Cantor Index.

That is similar to the odds of Mikkel Kessler dethroning long reigning Super Middleweight Boxing Champion Joe Calzaghe this weekend, in what is expected to be a tight contest, according to Cantor.

Not everybody is enjoying the oil rally. Behind the counter at a betting shop in Hackney, one of London's poorest boroughs, the mood was glum.

"It's a bad business," a bookie said. "It's guaranteed that oil prices will go up."

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