Oil prices peaked at almost $150 Dollars a barrel in July 2008 and fell sharply in the second
half of 2008 as the global financial crisis hit. Prices have increased since then, despite a
fairly weak global economy. Political unrest across the Middle East and the revolt in Libya
contributed to further price rises in early 2011. Subsequent prices in 2011 and 2012 were
volatile; falling amid concerns about the world economy and going up as tension between
Iran and the West increases. Prices were less volatile in 2013 but the average was close to
the near record levels seen in the previous two years. Some commentators have said that
quantitative easing has contributed to the underlying price increases. Sustained high prices
in 2011 meant the annual average price was above that seen in 2008 and the highest in real
terms since 1864. The latest spot price is around $107 per barrel. This is $43 below the
peak, but the weaker pound has meant that at times in early 2012 and early 2013 Sterling
prices have approached or exceeded their 2008 peak. The International Energy Agency’s
business as usual projections put the price of oil at almost $250 per barrel in 2035.
This note provides annual, monthly and daily data for Brent crude oil prices. It gives some
possible reasons for the recent very large price increases in 2008 and also includes the
longest available oil price series to help put more recent price rises in historical context.
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