Friday, February 29, 2008

Oil Tops $103 a Barrel Before Retreating

Oil prices briefly surpassed $103 a barrel for the first time Friday as persistent weakness in the U.S. dollar and the prospect of lower interest rates attracted fresh money to the oil market.

Light, sweet crude for April delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange jumped to a new trading record of $103.05 a barrel in electronic trading before slipping back to $102.07 a barrel, down 52 cents, by midday in Europe.

On Thursday, the contract jumped $2.95 to a record settlement price of $102.59 a barrel.

Prices were supported by comments Thursday from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said the American economy is not immediately threatened with stagflation, a combination of economic weakness and rising inflation.

Investors chose to see the comments as confirmation of their beliefs that the Fed will continue cutting interest rates to try to shore up the economy.

"It seems that further interest rate cuts, additional dollar weakness and more investment buying will anchor oil to higher prices," energy risk management firm Cameron Hanover said in its daily report. "It can't go on forever, but it looks like it can go on for a while."
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