Oil may hit $100 on China, QE and France: JP Morgan

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil may reach $100 a barrel sooner rather than later on Chinese demand, a dollar weakening due to anticipated U.S. quantitative easing and expected restocking of French inventories when strikes end, JP Morgan said.

The bank also raised its forecast for U.S. crude futures to an average $81 a barrel for the current fourth quarter from previous $75 a barrel. The 2010 and 2011 forecasts were raised by roughly $2 to $78.50 and $82.50, respectively.

“The key risk is that we are being too cautious and that the threat of $100 per barrel oil that is implicit in our fourth quarter 2011 oil forecast arrives much sooner than we expect -- driven by not only a weak dollar, but also by rampant Chinese and emerging market demand, the rebuilding of French strategic stocks,” Lawrence Eagles of JP Morgan said in a research note. JP Morgan estimated supply disruptions caused by the strike at France’s largest oil port Fos-Lavera since September 27 and industrial action at refineries reducing middle distillate inventories there by 8 million barrels in October.

France will have to rebuild fuel stocks as soon as the strikes end.

“In conclusion we can see the need for additional imports of diesel,” the bank said.

“But should the strike fade over the coming weekend then the overall impact to French inventory levels will seem substantial but not catastrophic and should provide an opportunity for additional European imports of ultra-low sulphur diesel in the short term.”

Reporting by Ikuko Kurahone