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Oil near $113 amid Mideast turmoil, weak US dollar

Oil prices hovered at a 30-month high near $113 a barrel Monday in Asia as traders eyed fresh Middle East tension and a wobbly U.S. dollar.


Benchmark crude for May delivery was up 6 cents at $112.85 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract jumped $2.49 to $112.79, the highest since September 2008.

In London, Brent crude for May delivery was down 91 cents to $125.74 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Oil prices have soared 33 percent since mid-February as traders worry political violence in the Middle East and North Africa could disrupt crude supplies.

Violence escalated last week between Palestinians in Gaza and Israel. Since Thursday, Palestinians have fired more than 120 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel, prompting Israeli reprisals that have killed 19 Palestinians, the most intense fighting between Israel and Gaza militants since January 2009.

Meanwhile, Egyptian soldiers Saturday attacked protesters calling for an investigation of former President Hosni Mubarak for embezzlement, killing at least one person and injuring 71 others. Several hundred protesters remained barricaded at Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

“Fresh headlines over the weekend could portend another difficult week for oil bears,” energy consultant The Schork Group said. “Gaza-Israel violence along with new protests in Tahrir Square against the military could incite another buying frenzy in the market.”

Investors are also watching closely the currency markets as the U.S. dollar fell to a 15-month low against the euro last week. A weaker U.S. currency makes dollar-based commodities such as oil cheaper for investors with other currencies.

The euro was down slightly at $1.4466 on Monday from $1.4483 late Friday.

Analysts expect the surge in oil prices will undermine consumer demand, but some are optimistic higher fuel costs won’t derail the global economy recovery.

“The rise in the price of oil in reaction to the spreading of unrest from Tunisia and Egypt to Libya and Bahrain remains below the threshold that is likely to have lasting impact of the global economy,” said Jeffrey Morrison of MFS Investment Management. “We expect the global economic recovery to be sustained.”

In other Nymex trading in May contracts, heating oil fell 2.1 cents to $3.30 a gallon and gasoline dropped 1.4 cents to $3.25 a gallon. Natural gas futures were down 2.3 cents at $4.02 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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