Oil holds gains above $79 in Asia as stocks rally, storm Bonnie threatens Gulf of Mexico

By Alex Kennedy, AP
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oil stays above $79 on stocks, Gulf storm

SINGAPORE — Oil prices held above $79 a barrel Friday in Asia as stock markets rallied and a storm threatened oil operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Benchmark crude for September delivery was down 1 cent at $79.29 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract surged $2.74 on Thursday to settle at $79.30, a 10-week high, as stock markets jumped on better-than-expected second quarter corporate earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 2 percent Thursday and all major Asian stock markets gained Friday.

Crude had wavered in the mid-$70s this month before Thursday’s breakout, suggesting investors have renewed confidence the global economic recovery is on track.

“For now, investors believe the global market place will make it out of the funk we are currently in and the markets will trade higher,” Sander Capital said in a report. “The world is still going to grow and consumption of raw materials is still going to take place.”

Traders are also eyeing Tropical Storm Bonnie, which could reach the Gulf by Saturday. The federal government has ordered some ships involved in the BP oil spill cleanup to return to port and Shell Oil has begun evacuating nonessential employees from its Gulf operations. Other energy companies in the Gulf are considering evacuations as well.

Early Friday, Bonnie had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), and was centered about 85 miles (135 kilometers) south of the Bahamian capital of Nassau, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm has already caused flooding in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

In other Nymex trading in August contracts, heating oil rose 0.43 cent to $2.0667 a gallon, gasoline gained 0.38 cent t0 $2.1504 a gallon and natural gas was steady at $4.645 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude was down 13 cents to $77.67 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

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