Bullish new petroleum supply figures and word of an escalation in the tension between Israel and Syria gave oil futures another boost on Thursday.
October West Texas intermediate crude climbed 57 cents to $76.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline slid 2.5 cents to $1.97 a gallon, while heating oil rose 4 cents to $2.14 a gallon.
Natural gas finished the session 15 cents lower at $5.65 per million British thermal units.
News that Syria's air-defense systems repelled Israeli warplanes from its airspace energized the oil market. Syria said it took appropriate action against Israeli aggression, but Israel refused to comment on the situation.
Elsewhere, the Energy Information Administration released petroleum inventory figures that were more supportive of prices than analysts were expecting. During the week ended Aug. 31, crude stores fell by 4 million barrels. Analysts were expecting a 2.2 million barrel decline.
Gasoline stores fell by 1.5 million barrels, vs. the 1.3-million barrel fall that was previously forecast. Distillates increased by 2.3 million barrels, whereas analysts had predicted a 1-million barrel injection.
Refinery utilization increased to 92.1% from 90.3%.
"We are coming to the end of the summer driving season," said Alan Mandel, analyst at Alan M. Trading. "With refinery runs up from last week and distillate inventories rising, it looks like there is enough crude oil and gasoline in the system to meet demand."
Mandel said the next major event that could affect energy markets will be the release of Friday's monthly jobs report. If it suggests that the economy is slowing, crude will see downward pressure, he said.
Meanwhile, energy stocks were mostly higher.
rose 1.8% to $83.63, and
Royal Dutch Shell
climbed 1.4%, finishing at $80.51.
was up 0.3% at $87.49.
Among stock ratings changes, Berstein upgraded
to market perform from underperform. It said that it made the changes based on their currently low stock values.
Valero fell, but the others gained ground.