Oil Prices Gain on Hurricane Irene, Libya


NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Oil prices barely edged into positive territory in the final hours of trading, getting a push from Hurricane Irene and Libya concerns.

The U.S. regional benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude oil for October delivery settled at $85.30 a barrel, up just 14 cents after a day of immensely volatile trading.

" U.S. East coast refineries are preparing to shut down due to Irene. This is mostly affecting the products especially gasoline and WTI crude may be following along with the rally," said optionsXpress analyst Mike Zarembski.

October Brent crude futures were fixed in positive territory throughout the day and rose 40 cents to settle at $110.55 on a myriad of supply concerns, including the prolonged Libyan civil war that's taken roughly 1.6 million barrels a day of oil offline; a resurgence of supply disruptions in key oil producer Nigeria; and ongoing crude production problems in the North Sea.

The global crude price benchmark "ended the day with a little upside, as fighting continues in Libya with no clear resolution as yet," said Summit Energy analyst Matt Smith. Brent has expected "the toppling of the regime in Libya to have been done and dusted by now."

Zarembski of optionsXpress thinks WTI's uptick at the end of the trading session may have also been tied to the general strength of Brent crude futures.

"I think traders are starting to realize that oil production from Libya will not move back to any sense of pre-war levels anytime soon," Zarembski said. "It may take a year or more to fully ramp up production once again and that is if stability will be brought back to the country."

All in all, Smith of Summit Energy views WTI's move as so tiny that it basically finished flat.

"WTI has been very, very choppy but has ultimately finished trading sideways, awaiting the Fed speech tomorrow," he noted.

Natural gas for September delivery ended sideways at $3.931 a million British thermal units after a weekly inventory reported indicated that there was an injection in line with expecations.

The Department of Energy reported an injection of of 73 billion cubic feet in U.S. natural gas inventories for the week ended Aug. 19. Industry analysts surveyed by Platts were expecting an inventory build of 72 billion cubic feet to 75 billion cubic feet.

Oil and gas stocks were most declining Thursday. EOG Resources ( EOG) fell 1.1% to $88.91; Apache Corporation ( APA) lost 1.1% to $99.36; Chevron ( CVX) dipped 1.4% to $96.20; Triangle Petroleum ( TPLM) gained 2.9% to $5.01; Chesapeake Energy ( CHK) slumped 1.7% to $29.66; Gastar ( GST) tumbled 2.3% to $3.79; and Kinder Morgan Inc ( KMI) traded sideways at $24.47.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.
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