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Oil prices up in Asia on hurricane fears

by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) Sept 11, 2008
World oil prices rose in Asian trade Thursday as Hurricane Ike headed towards key energy facilities on the southern US coast, dealers said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for October delivery, gained 1.27 dollars to 103.85 dollars a barrel from its close in the US on Wednesday.

Brent North Sea crude for October delivery rose 34 cents to 99.31 dollars.

"Seems like it is heading towards the refinery region," said Clarence Chu, a trader with energy brokerage Hudson Capital Group. "So I think the hurricane is the main driver this morning."

Texas on Wednesday ordered coastal evacuations as Ike strengthened to a Category Two storm in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward the southern US coast after ravaging Cuba and the Caribbean.

Ike could slam into the Texas coast late Friday or early Saturday as an even stronger storm, the National Hurricane Center forecast.

Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell said it would complete the evacuation of its personnel from offshore installations by Wednesday. The bulk of US oil refineries are in the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, traders are still assessing the impact of OPEC's surprise decision to cut the cartel's output by 520,000 barrels per day.

Analysts see the move by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as an attempt to keep oil prices above the symbolic 100-dollar level.

Oil prices have tumbled since reaching record levels of above 147 dollars in July, hit by worries that a US-led economic slowdown will crimp energy demand.

"It looks like they are willing to defend 100 dollars," Mike Wittner, an analyst at Societe Generale, said after OPEC's decision Tuesday.

Brent crude prices sank below 100 dollars Tuesday for the first time in five months before OPEC announced the cuts in production levels.


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