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Oil inches up above $103 after hitting 6-week low

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 52 cents to $103.30 a barrel in late morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Associated Press

3/30/2012

NEW YORK  — Oil prices are leveling off on signs that the U.S. and other countries could soon release some emergency reserves to keep prices from rising.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 52 cents to $103.30 a barrel in late morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dived $2.63 to settle at $102.78 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In London, Brent crude for May delivery was up 85 cents at $123.24 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Thursday that there's a "good chance" that the U.S. and Europe will agree to release some of their oil reserves. Investors are mulling how much the additional supply would lower oil prices, which have jumped from $75 in October.

"A strategic stock release of some sort seems highly likely over the next few months," Barclays Capital said in a report. "A large part of a potential stock release is already being priced in and has been one of the key deterrents from prices moving higher."

Some analysts expect crude has peaked for the year as slower global economic growth undermines demand for oil.

Capital Economics expects Brent crude to fall to $95 by the end of the year and $85 in 2013.

"The global economic recovery is set to disappoint," Capital Economics said in a report. "Europe is facing a deep recession, which would only be made worse if oil prices stay elevated for much longer."

AP writer Pablo Gorondi contributed to this report.


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