Crude Collects More Gains

Natural gas is 16 cents higher.
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Energy futures crept higher Friday as the lingering unrest in the Middle East kept a bid under the complex.

July light sweet crude gained 35 cents to $68 a barrel in late trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline climbed 5 cents to $2.27 a gallon. Heating oil rose a penny to $2.02 a gallon.

Natural gas was 16 cents higher at $7.95 per million British thermal units.

Violence between the Palestinian Authority's Fatah party and Hamas in the Gaza territory was ensuring that traders stayed on edge.

In response to the fighting, leader Mahmoud Abbas has dissolved the two sides' governing coalition and appointed a new prime minister. However, Hamas soldiers reportedly took control of Gaza after several days of intense gun battles with Fatah.

Although no oil or gas is produced in the Palestinian region, clashes there tend to drive up prices in the global energy markets.

Elsewhere, tensions in Nigeria appear to be easing after the government released a member of the MEND rebel group from prison.

According to Edward Meir, an analyst at Man Financial, "if the violence in Nigeria recedes

amid continuing dialogue, we very well could see some of the majors announcing a restart in operations, which should be in the interest of the militants as well."

From a technical perspective, oil punctured the important $67.70 barrier. If crude sustains this level, it will be positioned for a significant move higher next week, Meir wrote in a report.

Meanwhile, energy stocks rallied on the back of higher commodity prices. The

CBOE Oil Index

was advancing 1.5% to 773.02.

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

gained 1.2% to $80.20, and

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

jumped 1.3% to $83.42.

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

was 1.4% higher at $85.98.