* Brent crude oil seen averaging $108 in 2013
* U.S. light crude to average $93.90 next year
* Weak demand, high production to suppress prices
* Oil price crash “low probability event” - analysts
* For a table of forecasts, see
By Nallur Sethuraman
Dec 20 (Reuters) - Slow economic growth and ample supplies are expected to keep a lid on oil next year with crude prices gradually slipping lower.
But analysts polled by Reuters say a price crash is unlikely and geopolitical concerns should help support the market.
Reuters monthly survey of 26 analysts forecast North Sea Brent crude oil will average $108 per barrel in 2013, down from an average of $111.71 so far this year.
Brent prices are projected to fall further to an average of $105.90 in 2014, the poll showed.
“While geopolitical concerns in the Middle East still remain at the forefront, concerns about the United States going over the ‘fiscal cliff’ and the euro area potentially slipping back into recession could have more dire consequences for crude oil demand for the first half of 2013,” Gain Capital Group analyst Chris Tevere said.
Four analysts forecast Brent would average more than $115 next year, compared with three in last month’s poll. Three analysts saw Brent at below $100 in 2013, compared with five analysts last month.
“With U.S. oil production reaching its highest levels in well over a decade, combined with this potential economic slowdown, it may continue to be a major headwind for oil prices,” said Gain Capital’s Tevere, who forecast 2013 Brent prices averaging $95.
“LOW PROBABILITY EVENT”
Analysts expect oil demand to improve modestly in the second half of 2013, but say higher supply will limit any price rises.
Forecasters projecting higher prices pin their hopes on improved economic conditions in China and the United States.
First Energy had the highest Brent price forecast in the poll with $130.50 per barrel for 2013, while Raymond James had the lowest with $80 per barrel for the year.
U.S. light crude oil is seen averaging $93.90 in 2013, down from $94.70 in last month’s poll.
While the poll shows a drop in prices next year, most analysts argue the probability of a price crash is very low.
“An oil price crash remains a low probability event, with Saudi Arabia able to balance the market by reducing its own production,” Natixis analyst Abhishek Deshpande said.
Mark Pervan, ANZ’s global head of commodity strategy argued that Brent prices would continue to be supported by geopolitical supply risks in the Middle East.
“If prices do crash, it will only be temporary, with OPEC likely to respond by tightening supplies,” Pervan said.
Julian Jessop, head of commodities research at Capital Economics, said there could be a significant fall in oil prices in the event of a global financial shock such as the break-up of the euro.
Tensions in the Middle East are expected to prevail during the first half of 2013, but would ease in the course of second half, Hans van Cleef, Energy Economist with ABN Amro said.
“This will result in a cutback of the risk premium,” van Cleef said. (Reporting by NR Sethuraman in Bangalore; Editing by Christopher Johnson and Alison Birrane)