Data, new rig fire send crude prices higher.
Crude oil prices were up Thursday, driven first by hopeful economic news from the United States and then later by the news of another explosion and fire at an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
The explosion and fire damaged a rig belonging to Mariner Energy, Inc (NYSE: ME) off the coast of Louisiana, where the rig was undergoing refurbishment work after being damaged by Hurricane Ike.
The rig was not in production at the time of the incident and early reports said that there was no sign of oil leakage, but late reports say that there is an oil sheen about 100 feet wide and a mile long near the platform, raising concerns that the incident will add to pressure to further limit or halt offshore drilling.
Better news came in the form of new data on pending home sales, unemployment claims and factory orders in the United States, where the National Association of Realtors said that pending home sales were up by 5.3 percent in July, while first-time jobless claims fell by 6,000 to 472,000 last week, and US factory orders were up 0.1 percent, although the gains wasn’t as much as had been anticipated.
October contracts for West Texas Intermediate crude ended floor trade up $1.11 to $75.02 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while at last report Brent crude had added 73 cents to $77.08 per barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.
Nymex October gasoline futures were up 2 cents to $1.91 per gallon shortly before the close of trade, while October heating oil futures added a cent to $2.05 per gallon and October natural gas futures had dropped less than a cent to $3.76 per million British thermal units.
The US Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas inventories grew by 54 billion cubic feet last week, at the low end of expectations, to 3.106 trillion cubic feet, 5.8 percent above the five-eyar average but 6.3 percent below last year at the same time.
The retail price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the United States dropped slightly overnight to $2.626 per gallon on average nationally.
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