Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Crude oil futures rise after analysts digest UN actions

SHARP SWINGS Oil traders had an eventful week as the UN, under heavy pressure from the US, decided to lift the 12-year-old sanctions which limited the sale of Iraqi oil


Crude oil futures at the New York Mercantile Exchange rose Friday, finishing another week of sharp price swings on a somewhat positive note.

Friday's gains came as fears of terrorist attacks and concerns over tight supplies of summer gasoline prompted traders to cover short positions ahead of the long weekend.

"I think the psychology of short supply is still holding true for gasoline and crude," said Mike Fitzpatrick, an energy analyst at Fimat Futures Inc in New York.

At the New York Mercantile, July crude rose US$0.31 to close at US$29.16 a barrel.

Nearby June heating oil futures ended at US$0.744 a gallon, up 3 points, while June gasoline futures rose US$0.0133 to settle at US$0.9065 a gallon.

June petroleum products futures are due to expire next Friday, the last trading day of the month.

"Products will probably stay strong ahead of expiration next week," Fitzpatrick said.

The exchange closed early at 1pm and will remain closed tomorrow in observance of Memorial Day.

At London's International Petroleum Exchange, July Brent futures advanced US$0.27 to close at US$26.24 a barrel.

Despite Friday's modest gains, crude oil prices remained largely flat for the week, as supply and terrorism jitters caused prices to swing sharply.

Monday and Tuesday saw a bout of profit taking after a week of solid gains, but prices resumed their uptrend Wednesday after data showed that US crude stocks failed to grow last week by as much as some had hoped and that clean-burning reformulated gasoline fell sharply.

The unanimous UN approval of a resolution lifting sanctions on Iraq on Thursday brought prices under some downward pressure.

The lifting of the 12-year-old resolutions has set the stage for a resumption of Iraqi oil exports for the first time in more than two months. Analysts are still digesting the full impact of the reversal of UN policy, although most traders foresee little short-term impact from the decision.

On a second glance, however, traders concluded that a full resumption of Iraqi oil exports was still months away, analysts said.

By Friday, concerns over low RFG stocks and terrorism took center stage, forcing trading to move on the defensive.

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