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Bloomberg: Oil Rises a Second Day on Speculation of U.S. Inventory Drop

By Christian Schmollinger

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) — Crude oil rose for a second day on speculation that U.S. inventories declined for an eighth week as demand increased.

The Energy Department report today will probably show that crude supplies fell 2.1 million barrels, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Oil gained more than $1 a barrel yesterday as part of a commodity rally that saw gold climb to a record along with increases in grains and base metals. Investors are seeking alternatives because of sluggish growth in equities.

“The expected drop in the inventory report is causing a bit of alarm bells,” said Steve Rowles, an analyst at CFC Seymour Ltd. in Hong Kong. “Commodities in general are being considered a safe haven and that’s an element in the price movement.”

Crude oil for February delivery rose as much as 67 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $97 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $96.80 at 4:05 p.m. in Singapore.

Yesterday, the contract rose $1.24, or 1.3 percent, to settle at $96.33 a barrel. Futures reached a record $100.09 a barrel on Jan. 3. Prices are up 73 percent from a year ago.

U.S. stocks fell as worse-than-forecast home sales and a forecast by AT&T Inc. for weaker customer spending sent the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to the lowest level since March.

Gold, copper and nickel are off to the best start to a year since at least 1980 as funds rebalance their portfolios and pour more money into commodities, according to traders and analysts including Jonathan Barratt, managing director at Commodity Broking Services in Sydney.

`Looking for Alternatives’

“People don’t want to leave money in the stock market and they are looking for alternatives,” said Tetsu Emori, fund manager at Astmax Co. Ltd. in Tokyo. “The fresh money flows are giving an impact to the commodity prices.”

Bullion for immediate delivery climbed as much as $13.70, or 1.6 percent, to a record $891.70 an ounce. It was at $885.95 at 4:06 p.m. Singapore time.

Brent crude for February settlement rose as much as 48 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $96.02 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange. It was at $95.87 at 4:06 p.m. Singapore time. Futures touched $98.50 on Jan. 3, the highest intraday price since trading began in 1988.

Crude oil stockpiles dropped 25.1 million barrels in the prior seven weeks ended Dec. 28, according to the Energy Department. The department is scheduled to release its report on inventories in the week ended Jan. 4 at 10:30 a.m. in Washington.

Distillate Fuel

Inventories of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, rose 1 million barrels from 127.2 million the prior week, according to the 11 analysts who gave product-supply estimates.

Gasoline supplies probably rose 1.6 million barrels from 207.8 million the prior week, according to the median of responses.

The Nigerian militant group known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, said it is urging unaffiliated groups to help it cripple oil supply from Africa’s biggest producer. MEND’s attacks have halted as much as 20 percent of Nigeria’s oil production since hostilities started in early 2006.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Nigeria venture yesterday said it detected leaks on export and water disposal pipelines in the Niger Delta that may be a result of sabotage.

The export pipeline flows from the Forcardos terminal to offshore for shipment. Production is not affected, Shell spokeswoman Caroline Wittgen said.

The Vanguard newspaper reported yesterday that militants blew up the pipeline as well as the Beniboye oil pipeline operated by a unit of Eni SpA to protest alleged pollution in the region. A spokeswoman for Eni, who declined to be named, denied that the facility was attacked.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christian Schmollinger in Singapore at [email protected] .

Last Updated: January 9, 2008 03:14 EST

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