Analysts remain bullish on the overall outlook for Brent, as outages and the prospect of an export ban from Iran continue to support the contract. \"While the Iran risk premium has come off a little, the situation still looks far from resolved,\" NAB economist Michael Creed said. Brent crude futures will average $117.30 per barrel this year, based on forecasts from 38 analysts, a $2.60 increase from the previous poll in March. Analysts have raised their forecasts in each of the last four monthly polls, by a total of $12.10 per barrel or more than 11 percent. Fewer than half of the analysts in the latest Reuters poll expect prices this year to average more than $120 per barrel, the price forecast by Goldman Sachs, which is often described as a \'perma-bull\' on oil by its competitors. The higher forecast in April\'s poll tracks Brent\'s year-to-date average of just under $119 a barrel. The contract posted strong gains during the first quarter, when it rose to highs of $128.40 per barrel. It has since fallen by more than 7 percent to trade at around $119 a barrel. Societe Generale has the highest forecast in the poll, calling for Brent to average $127.40 per barrel in 2012, or more than $8 above the current price. The bank\'s global head of oil research, Mike Wittner, says that the pledge from top producer Saudi Arabia to tame prices will squeeze spare capacity, leaving the market more vulnerable to other production outages. \"Higher Saudi production will tighten spare capacity even further. This is the primary driver behind our bullish crude oil price outlook,\" Wittner wrote in a note. Saudi\'s elevated pumping rate is having another effect on the oil market - inventories in the kingdom are rising, according to Goldman Sachs. \"We believe Saudi is building oil inventories in order to meet its domestic seasonal upswing in oil-fired power generation demand this summer, without having to severely reduce exports,\" GS analysts David Greely and Stefan Wieler said in a note. \"In our view, it is only a matter of time before inventories and OPEC spare capacity become effectively exhausted, requiring higher oil prices to restrain demand, keeping it in line with available supply.\" Barclays analysts said that output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which pumps around a third of global oil supplies, is running at its highest ever level. \"We expect OPEC to continue to allow global inventories to rise for a while, albeit at the trade-off of running at low levels of sustainable spare capacity.\" China, the world\'s top energy consumer, will remain a key factor for crude oil prices in the longer term. Barclays analysts expect that growing car production and ownership will spur commodity demand over the next five years. \"This will support rapid growth in demand for transport fuels and the materials used in auto manufacture,\" they said in a note.