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Oil prices flat ahead of US hurricane
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Aug 26, 2011

Oil prices rose slightly Friday on little industry news and a noncommittal speech on the US economic outlook from central bank chief Ben Bernanke, as a huge hurricane barreled toward the US east coast.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for October delivery, rose seven cents to $85.37 a barrel, not far from where it began the week.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for October rose 74 cents to settle at $111.36 a barrel.

Hurricane Irene's looming assault on the US east coast, including New York City and areas in the northeast corridor where numerous refineries and tank farms are located, also appeared to leave traders unfazed.

"The US east coast is home to about 3.0-5.0 percent of the country's total refinery capacity and is the delivery hub for US-traded gasoline futures, so the hurricane should underpin crude prices in the near term," said Nick Trevethan, a senior commodities strategist with ANZ Research.

"Nearly 1.4 mbd (million barrels per day) of refining capacity can be found on the various waterways of Philadelphia and New Jersey, evoking concerns that the facilities will suffer the crippling effect hurricanes Katrina and Rita had on Gulf Coast operations due to flooding and damage," said JPMorgan in a research note.

"Despite comparisons, the impact of this weekend's storm is likely to be less severe than 2005."

While Bernanke disappointed many by giving no hint of a new stimulus program for the economy in his annual speech at a Jackson Hole, Wyoming, central bankers meeting, markets were assuaged by his announcement that the Fed was going to have two days of talks about its options on September 20-21.

"The stimulus is still on the table, and that is giving some hope to the market that there will be another injection to stimulate the economy, that's just further down the road," said Matt Smith of Summit Energy.

"That's why we are seeing equities rally and weakness in the dollar," he added.

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