Updated from 2:38 p.m. EDTA day after surging 3.9%, oil futures marched ahead once again. Crude for December delivery was better by $1.40 to settle at a record $91.86 a barrel Friday in New York. Earlier, it touched an all-time intraday high at $92.22. During the previous session, oil closed above $90 for the first time ever after the White House introduced new sanctions against Iran and OPEC's secretary general said his group isn't worried yet about rising prices. Several issues have been contributing to the recent rally, including worries about the tension between Turkey and Iraqi Kurds, speculative buying and the belief supply will stay tight, all of which remain factors to at least some degree. On Wednesday, the Energy Department said U.S. oil stores unexpectedly fell by 5.3 million barrels last week. With the U.S. action against Tehran and OPEC's seeming indifference added in, that gave oil room to keep running into territory never before seen. "The major trend is up. Although the market is definitely overbought technically, the technical issues can be ignored until traders step away from their bullish exuberance," says Thomas Hartmann, energy analyst at Altavest Worldwide Trading. Hartmann says it's hard to know what the next step for crude will be, but that "you must figure that with this much support, $100-a-barrel oil is not out of the picture."
"The market will ultimately become exhausted and burn itself out," he continues. "Investors' resources will dry up. However, that doesn't appear to be likely anytime soon. It is also important to remember that current oil prices relative to inflation are not at their all-time highs." Elsewhere, heating oil tacked on 2 cents at $2.43 a gallon, and reformulated gasoline advanced 4 cents to $2.27 a gallon. Natural gas shook off early weakness and rose 3 cents to $7.22 per million British thermal units. Stocks in the energy sector were strong again, and the Amex Oil Index was up 2.2%. The Natural Gas Index increased 1.8%. The shares of most individual companies rose, with ConocoPhillips ( COP) and Exxon Mobil ( XOM) up 1.3% and 0.7%, respectively. Royal Dutch ( RDS.A) improved by 3.3%. Tesoro ( TSO) gained 12.7% to $64.48 after Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda offered to boost its stake in the company, and fellow refiner Valero ( VLO) was higher by 1.4%. A day after saying said it would pay more than $370 million to end investigations into the March 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery, Alaskan oil spills in 2006 and improper propane trading in April 2003 and February 2004, BP ( BP) rose 2.5%.