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Published: Saturday, 12/31/2011

2012 expected to repeat 2011's oil-price jump


NEW YORK -- Oil prices soared in 2011 and will end about 19 percent higher, on average, after a volatile year driven by concerns over global supplies. Gasoline followed oil higher this year, with an average for the year of $3.52 a gallon -- the highest ever.

The surge in oil and gasoline prices will continue to put pressure on the economy as it struggles to grow in 2012, analysts said. "It's like leaving the parking brake on while you're trying to drive the economy forward," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research.

Benchmark crude rose by 8 cents to $99.73 per barrel on Friday, the final trading day of the year.

Overall in 2011, crude prices averaged $95.09 a barrel in New York. That's up from $79.64 in 2010 and from $62.11 in 2009. The Energy Department expects prices to rise in 2012 to an average of $98 a barrel.

Oil started the year at $91.38 a barrel, then jumped in February as rebellion began in Libya. Oil companies pulled employees from the country, and oil production was essentially halted for several months.

About 1.5 million barrels of daily oil exports were cut off during the Libyan uprising. Oil prices jumped 25 percent from the middle of February to the first week in March.

The price of benchmark West Texas crude rose as high as $113.93 a barrel in April, then dropped to $75.67 by October.

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