Oil Ends Rocky Day Higher

The November crude contract rose 44 cents.
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Updated from 12 p.m. EDT

Oil futures for November delivery closed higher again Thursday after a trying back-and-forth session for the energy sector.

The nearest-month crude contract finished up 44 cents to $66.79 a barrel in Nymex trading. November natural gas, the new benchmark contract, was up 10 cents at $14.20 per mmBtu, and unleaded gasoline lost 8.77 cents to $2.25 a gallon.

Heating oil for October delivery, whose contract trades through Friday, fell 1.64 cents to $2.12 a gallon.

The government's Energy Information Administration said working natural gas in storage totaled 2,885 billion cubic feet as of Sept. 23, a net increase of 53 Bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 116 Bcf less than last year at this time and 68 Bcf above the five-year average of 2,817 Bcf.

"This is higher than the whisper number," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Alaron Trading. "There was a lot of talk among traders that the injection numbers would fall short. This number took away the initial panic."

The energy sector in the Gulf of Mexico continues to suffer from the combined blows of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, according to government reports.

The U.S. Minerals Management Service said Thursday that the daily shut-in oil production was about 1.48 billion barrels, roughly 99% of the daily oil production in the Gulf. Nearly 80% of daily gas production is down.

"This was all about natural gas today," Flynn said. "There's still a lot of uncertainty." The market, he added, "has priced in a lot of the bad news for natural gas."

Peter Zeihan, energy analyst at Stratfor, a consulting company, said the large gasoline inventory could be an indication of an energy-induced recession.

"We're producing a hell of a lot of gasoline," he said. "At the same time, inventory is going up, which means there's a sharp break in demand along the way."

Among the companies with news,

Chevron

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estimated its third-quarter profits will be cut by more than $350 million as a result of storms that affected its operations prior to Rita, according to media reports.

Global Partners

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a Waltham, Mass., wholesaler of heating oil and other products, priced an initial public offering of 4.9 million units at $22 each.

XTO Energy

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, the largest natural gas producer in eastern Texas, said its field operations and production were basically unaffected by the hurricanes.

McDermott International

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said a unit of J. Ray McDermott was awarded the Arthit Processing Platform contract by PTT Exploration & Production, a deal that's valued around $110 million.