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Sun, May 04, 2008 - Page 10 News List

OIL: Supply concerns spark sharp rise in oil futures

US OPTIMISMCrude oil futures rose US$3.80 in New York and US$4.06 in London after the rising greenback helped pull prices back to nearly US$110 on Thursday


Oil futures soared on Friday after Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish rebel bases in Iraq injected some supply concerns into the market and the US Labor Department’s employment report gave investors reason to be optimistic about the US economy.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery rose US$3.80 to settle at US$116.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In London, June Brent crude futures gained US$4.06 to settle at US$114.56 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish rebel bases inside Iraq for three hours overnight, a rebel spokesman said on Friday. When conflict breaks out in the Middle East, investors often buy on concerns that supplies will be disrupted.

Some investors were also buying crude on a view that the economy is improving, analysts said. The US Labor Department said employers cut far fewer jobs last month than expected.

“If the jobs [situation] isn’t as bad, maybe we’d see a snap back in demand,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading Corp in Chicago.

For a change, investors shrugged off the US dollar, which rose on a theory that the employment data means the US Federal Reserve is less likely to cut interest rates further this year; falling rates tend to weaken the dollar.

A rising dollar undercuts the appeal of commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation, and makes oil more expensive to investors overseas. The rising greenback helped pull oil prices back to nearly US$110 a barrel on Thursday. Oil’s climb to almost US$120 on Monday from about US$64 a year ago was largely due to a protracted decline by the dollar, analysts say.

However, oil’s connection to the dollar can be broken when other factors predominate, as they did on Friday.

“It’s not a perfect relationship, and on any given day, oil will choose to go its own way,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

Still, analysts think the market’s decision to shrug off Friday’s stronger dollar will be short-lived, particularly if the Fed holds interest rates steady and the dollar continues to gain.

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