Will Oil Follow Goldman Price Target?

Goldman Sachs sees crude at $85 a barrel by year-end. The last time Goldman made a bold prediction on crude's price direction, the commodity mostly followed.
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Updated from 1:51 p.m. EDT

The last time Goldman Sachs talked about how high crude oil prices could go, the commodity responded with a huge move up.

This week Goldman slapped a 2009 year-end target of $85 -- $95 by 2010 -- on crude in light of its recent rebound.

"The recent rally in WTI

West Texas Interrnediate crude oil prices is likely to be but the first stage in the oil price rally that we expect will accompany a recovery in economic activity," the Goldman note said. Goldman also lifted its three-month target from $52 to $75 a barrel.

In March 2008, Goldman had said that crude oil could go as high as $200 by 2010.

Crude hit an all-time high of around $147 a barrel in July 2008, but as the banking and credit crisis unwound, taking the global economy with it, oil began a precipitous decline, falling to $32 a barrel in December.

That said, crude settled up $2.69 a barrel to $68.81 on the New York Mercantile Exchange Thursday afternoon. The Amex Oil Index close up 1.8% to 987.05.

Are we headed for another wild ride in crude?

It doesn't seem likely. Although improving economic conditions are usually accompanied by a demand for more commodities, don't expect consumers to shrug as much as they did the last time oil soared, which could eventually crimp demand for fuel.

A return to $4-a-gallon gasoline won't be as palatable this time around, with persistent unemployment and two of the Detroit Three automakers --

GM

(GM) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

-- in bankruptcy. The automakers recently found some solace in less rapidly declining auto sales. But substantially higher-priced gasoline won't add to that hope.

Shares of most major integrated oil companies finished higher Thursday afternoon.

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

was up 1.3% to $72.98.

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

was up 2.2% to $69.79.

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

was up 0.8% to $45.94.

BP

(BP) - Get Report

was up 0.3% to $50.91.

Royal Dutch Shell

()

was up 0.2% to $55.63.

Sunoco

(SUN) - Get Report

was up 2.7% to $28.78.