Published On: Sat, May 21st, 2011

Oil settles above $99 per barrel

Oil climbed above $99 per barrel in volatile trading on Friday as the dollar weakened during the trading session. Pump prices fell again as another industry report showed that drivers are buying less gasoline.

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Benchmark crude for June delivery rose $1.05 to settle at $99.49 per barrel. Friday was the final day for the June contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and most of the trading shifted to the July contract, which rose $1.17 to settle at $100.10 per barrel.

Although the dollar ended the day higher against foreign currencies, a slight decline while crude was trading helped push oil higher. Crude is priced in dollars. When the dollar weakens crude becomes cheaper for investors holding foreign money.

Oil was lower early in the day, after an industry group said gasoline demand fell in April for the first time in three months. The American Petroleum Institute said demand dropped 2.2 percent last month when compared with the same month last year.

The report echoed previous data from the Energy Department and MasterCard SpendingPulse. And it underlined concerns that high pump prices are forcing more people to drive less.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday showed that a growing number of Americans think higher gasoline prices will affect them or their families this year. The poll found that 63 percent of those surveyed with annual household incomes over $50,000 now say rising prices are causing financial hardship, up from 55 percent in March.

Pump prices hit the highest levels since 2008 earlier this month. They started falling two weeks ago as oil retreated from a high near $114 a barrel. On Friday the national average for a gallon of regular dropped another 2 cents, to $3.886 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Gasoline is still the most expensive it’s ever been for this time of year.

Analysts said some investors were concerned about reports that al-Qaida last summer considered hijacking and blowing up oil tankers to provoke an “extreme economic crisis” in the West. The plans were in documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan.

Jim Ritterbusch, who has traded oil contracts since they first traded on the Nymex in 1983, said worries about terrorism usually don’t affect oil prices much. A tanker holds about 2 million barrels. That’s enough to supply world demand for only about half an hour.

“These are isolated incidents, and the actual quantity of any one tanker isn’t that big of a deal,” Ritterbusch said.

After a 12 percent drop since earlier this month, many investors consider oil to be undervalued and have been looking to buy before the weekend, according to PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn.

“The market’s on a hair trigger situation right now,” he said.

In other Nymex trading for June contracts, heating oil gained 2.36 cents to settle at $2.9183 per gallon and gasoline futures added less than 1 cent to settle at $2.9358 per gallon. Natural gas futures added 12.9 cents to settle at $4.290 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose 97 cents to settle at $112.39 on the ICE Futures exchange.

 

Source : news.yahoo.com