Updated from 12:16 p.m. ESTCrude oil futures soared above $59 Friday after a bomb threat was called in to one of BP's ( BP - Get Report) refineries and the U.S. said Nigerian militants may attack up to 20 oil installations in Africa's largest crude producer this month. The threat was called in to a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, early this morning. The facility, which can process up to 400,000 barrels of crude per day, was operating as normal. Meanwhile, rebels may launch attacks against oil facilities in the Niger River Delta, the country's largest source of crude, during the first week of this month, the U.S. consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, said, according to Dow Jones. The attacks would be against "land-based targets" and oil facilities. The rebels gave oil companies 72 hours to leave or risk an attack in an operation they've called "Black November." Still, the threat could be a bluff, since past ones have come to nothing. This year, Nigerian rebels have driven down the country's oil production by about 500,000 barrels a day through attacks on pipelines and platforms. Nigeria pumps around 2.2 million barrels per day, and Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A) has been the target of many of the attacks. Kidnappings of oil workers have been rife, with one American and a British employee being taken hostage this week. Militants are attempting to pressure the government ahead of elections and to gain a share of the country's petrodollars.
Oil prices also gained ground after the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in October, a five-and-a-half-year low. The report gave energy traders relief that the economy was not slowing down and pressuring energy demand. There were 92,000 jobs added during October, 33,000 fewer than analysts had expected. But September and August job figures were revised upward to 148,000 and 230,000, respectively. The labor agency had originally reported that companies added only 51,000 positions in September and 188,000 in August. Light sweet crude skyrocketed $1.26 to settle at $59.14 a barrel. Oil prices have been stuck between $57 and $60 for the past week as traders alternatively train their sights on brimming fuel inventories and speculation that OPEC may not cut production by an agreed 1.2 million barrels per day this month. Unleaded gasoline climbed 5 cents to $1.50 a gallon and heating oil added 3 cents to $1.67 a gallon. Natural gas picked up 7 cents to $7.88 per million British thermal units. Stockpiles of domestic fuel inventories are currently 2% to 13% above last year, thanks to mild temperatures and low heating demand. Supplies will likely drop as temperatures may drop, but until then, energy prices are expected to remain sluggish. The standoff with Iran, which has buoyed prices this year, has been on the back burner as the energy markets focused on domestic supplies and OPEC's indecision over production cuts. The U.N. Security Council is still discussing a draft resolution to impose trade sanctions on one of the world's top crude producers, but Russia and China have steadfastly refused to go along with them.
On Thursday, Iran started a 10-day missile test intended as a show of force against the U.S., Israel and Europe. It's the third such test Iran has done this year. In stock market action, energy shares were taking a cue from oil prices and were climbing around 2% to 3% on the Amex Oil and the Philadelphia Oil Service Indices. Among refiners and drillers, Sunoco ( SUN - Get Report), Hess ( HES - Get Report) and Marathon Oil ( MRO) were leading gains. Sunoco picked up an upgrade from JPMorgan to neutral from underweight on the basis of strong diesel margins. Shares of the refiner were last up 3.9% at $67.03. Exxon Mobil ( XOM), the largest publicly traded energy company, was jumping 1.5% to $72.28. Tesoro ( TSO) didn't find favor with JPMorgan and got hit with a downgrade from neutral to underweight. The investment bank cited Tesoro's poor fundamentals compared with those of its competitors. Shares were recently adding 0.9% to $64.05.