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AP Worldstream: Oil prices rise to just under US$61 a barrel on persistent Nigeria, Iran worries

GILLIAN WONG
Feb 24, 2006
Crude oil futures gained Friday as persistent concerns over supply disruptions in Nigeria and Iran's nuclear program overshadowed U.S. government data showing gains in domestic crude supplies.
Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose 34 cents to US$60.88 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract slipped 47 cents to settle at US$60.54 a barrel Thursday.
Gasoline advanced 1.39 cents to US$1.5273 a gallon (3.8 liters) while heating oil gained 0.49 cents to US$1.6675 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 13 cents to US$7.328 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The U.S. federal Energy Information Administration's weekly supply snapshot showed that crude stocks rose by 1.1 million barrels last week to 326.7 million barrels, their highest level since last June.
The data also showed that inventories of gasoline rose by 100,000 barrels to 225.6 million barrels, their highest level in nearly seven years.
But distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, shrank by a widely expected 1.3 million barrels to 135.6 million barrels.
Analysts said prices were supported by concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions and militant attacks in Nigeria.
Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the United States' fifth-largest supplier, usually exporting 2.5 million barrels daily. Iran is the second-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“Despite the inventory data, people are still concerned about the geopolitical risks in Iran and Nigeria, because of the potential for supply disruptions,” said Tetsu Emori, chief commodities strategist at Mitsui Bussan Futures in Tokyo.
Militants in Nigeria on Thursday issued the first photos of what they claimed were seven of nine foreigners kidnapped in the West African nation, and threatened more attacks on oil workers and the country's volatile oil industry.
“We are continuing with our attacks on oil facilities and oil workers in the next few days. We will act without further warning,” the militants said in a statement.
Oil prices spiked earlier this week on news that militants in Nigeria attacked a pipeline switching station, operated by Royal Dutch Shell PLC, on Monday and a boat they claimed housed Nigerian military personnel. That, and an earlier attack, has forced Shell to halt the flow of about 455,000 barrels a day.

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