Investors are seeing new opportunities to make money on oil. The price of crude oil rose to its highest level in 15 months on Wednesday amid speculation that a weak dollar and cold weather across many parts of the world will boost energy demand. But despite increasing demand in emerging markets, some say higher inventories and recessionary pullbacks in the West could drive prices lower.
Severe winter weather across parts of Europe, Asia and the United States helped push the price of oil above $83 a barrel on Wednesday, before falling below that mark again on Thursday.
In the U.S., a 20 percent increase in demand for heating oil, along with higher gasoline prices had some investors speculating about a return to record highs.
With demand continuing to rise in emerging economies such as China and India, energy trader Ray Carbone says oil futures are a good bet.
"To me, we could be at triple digits in the not long period of time and of course we know that we can go well into the triple digits if the right confluence of events comes about," said Ray Carbone.
But after 10 days of consecutive gains, some investors may be having second thoughts. On Thursday, oil futures fell below $83 a barrel amid concerns about higher than expected surpluses and a strengthening U.S. dollar.
Energy analyst Mike Fitzpatrick says a sluggish recovery in the U.S. could also drive prices lower.
"I think that the fundamentals aren't there," said Mike Fitzpatrick. "I mean there is plenty of supply. Demand in the industrial West remains severely restricted because of the recession."
Oil prices topped out at $145 a barrel in 2008, driven largely by speculators hedging their bets on a weak U.S. dollar. Analysts don't expect prices to reach similar levels anytime soon but they say oil markets could remain a hot spot for investors - if energy demand increases as the U.S. economy gradually starts to improve.