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Crude Oil Finds Buyers

September light sweet crude climbs 90 cents to $71.90 a barrel.

Crude futures were higher Friday after U.S. equity markets stabilized and Hurricane Dean continued progressing toward oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

September light sweet crude climbed 90 cents to $71.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline gained nearly 6 cents to $2.04 a gallon, and heating oil added 3 cents to $2.02 a gallon.

Near-term natural gas rose 13.5 cents to $7.01 per million British thermal units.

The

Federal Reserve

lowered the discount rate and appeared to assure investors that action is being taken to buoy the global economy, thus sending crude prices higher.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Dean's westerly move through the Caribbean was again worrying energy traders. The category 3 storm is now roughly 300 miles southeast of Puerto Rico with sustained winds of 125 mph.

"The odds of Dean entering the Gulf of Mexico are high," says Stephen Strum, meteorologist at Frontier Weather, a Tulsa, Okla.-based provider of weather forecasting and climate data. "However, we don't know whether it will continue west toward Mexico or veer north toward the U.S."

"The storm is strengthening and will likely become a category 4 storm over the weekend," added Strum. "It could easily grow into a category 5 storm if it doesn't cross over too many land masses in the Caribbean."

The strength in the broader equity markets spelled good news for energy stocks. The

CBOE Oil Index

advanced 3.1% to 718.94.

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get ConocoPhillips Report

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climbed 2.4% to $79.13, and

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Chevron Corporation Report

rose 3.7% to $84.36.

Among ratings changes,

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Transocean Ltd. Report

was upgraded by Stifel Nicolaus to buy from hold, lifting its shares 4% to $99.60.

BMO Capital Markets upgraded

Cabot Oil & Gas

(COG) - Get Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation Report

to market perform from underperform, sending its shares 2% higher to $32.98.

Duncan Energy

(DEP)

was upgraded by A.G. Edwards to buy from hold. Duncan climbed 6.6% to $22.82 on the news.