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Export firm predicts major tumble in oil prices, exchange rate

OTTAWA -- The new good news -- for trucking companies, anyway -- is that oil per-barrel prices will slide significantly below $100 and the loonie will retreat to about 95 cents US to close out the year.

At least that's what Export Development Canada says. The not-so-good news, though, is that there's little sign that exports will rebound this year or in 2009, the export credit agency added.

Export values will likely rise by about 4 percent in '08, but that's mainly a result of higher energy prices. Overall volumes -- weakened by central Canada's struggling manufacturing sector -- are projected to fall by four percent.

"Since our Spring Global Export Forecast, there hasn't been much good news for Canadian exporters. Losses due to the U.S. sub-prime crisis and its spill over effects into Canada continue to mount, the impact of soaring commodity prices upon consumers continues to increase, and proof of slowing global production is rampant," said Peter Hall, VP and Chief Economist for EDC.

Most interestingly, though, EDC predicts that oil will average about $84 a barrel in 2009. The price per barrel has already retreated to $125 after hitting record highs of $147 just two weeks ago.

Oil price predictions are just as volatile as the price itself

"While EDC recognizes that global supply and demand for crude is tight, we see signs that a large price correction is on the horizon," Hall continued.

As for the Canuck buck, EDC says it will trade at par for most of this year, before dipping between 94 and 97 cents in 2009.

Recently, other Canadian forecasters had a different take, suggesting that the loonie is "too cheap" and could climb back up to $1.05 US by the first quarter of next year.

EDC attributes the current spike in oil to futures speculators seeking insulation from a freefalling US dollar. Once the US buck stops sinking, oil prices will plateau somehwere below $100, the firm guesses.

That forecast is in stark contrast to some recent projections from Wall Street in New York. Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital, for example, issued reports not to long ago indicating that $150 a barrel averages is likely for the next 24 months. Goldman Sachs projected the cost could even reach as high as $200 at some point next year.

Instead, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that in the long-term prices will plummet from current levels -- to under $70 by 2015 -- before rising steadily to $113 per barrel in 2030.”

Compared to the sticker price today, we'll take it. If it's true, that is.

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