Skip to main content

Crude futures were slightly higher Friday as a workers' strike in Nigeria picked up steam, rather than settling down before the weekend as many analysts had hoped.

The August light sweet crude contract gained 20 cents to $69.20 a barrel. Reformulated gasoline rose 4 cents to $2.28 a gallon, and heating oil remained unchanged at $2.04 a gallon.

Natural gas dropped 25 cents to $7.11 per million British thermal units.

Although the Nigerian government has ceded to most of the demands of the country's striking workers, union leaders are refusing to halt the stoppage until the rest of its demands are met. The longer the strike persists, the greater the chance is that it will have a detrimental effect on oil production, according to Dennis Gartman, publisher of

The Gartman Letter

.

While the strike was uneventful when it started on Wednesday, it has grown more politically charged. Health care workers and teachers walked off the job late Thursday, and police have fired tear-gas at protestors in some cities in the southern delta region.

Meanwhile, energy stocks were broadly lower. The

CBOE Oil Index

fell 1.3% to 757.72.

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get ConocoPhillips Report

declined 1.3% to $78.63, and

Scroll to Continue

TheStreet Recommends

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation Report

gave back 2.2% to $82.55.

Elsewhere,

AGL Resources

( ATG) was upgraded by A.G. Edwards to buy from hold, lifting the stock fractionally to $40.01.

First Energy

(FE) - Get FirstEnergy Corp. Report

was upgraded by Bank of America Securities to buy from hold, and

Newfield Exploration

(NFX)

was raised by Canaccord Adams to buy from hold.

However, Newfield lost 3.9% to $43.01, while First Energy dropped 0.9% to $63.93.