Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Oil Rises a Fifth Day on Syncrude Shutdown, Potential Rate Cut

By Gavin Evans

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose to the highest in more than two weeks after cold weather reduced Syncrude Canada Ltd.'s oil-sands production and investors bought commodities, betting the U.S. Federal Reserve will cut interest rates today.

Oil and copper gained the past four days on speculation the half-percentage point interest rate cut forecast by traders and economists will sustain growth in the world's biggest economy. Oil prices jumped post-settlement after the world's biggest oil- sands producer said it may take several days for full production to be restored.

``Supply disruptions are always supportive'' for prices, said Tom Hartmann, commodity analyst at Altavest Worldwide Trading Inc. in Mission Viejo, California. Much of the gains are ``due to the exuberance for commodities,'' he said.

Crude oil for March delivery climbed as much as $1.07, or 1.2 percent, to $92.71 a barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was at $92.43 at 11:04 a.m. in Sydney. Prices have risen 6.2 percent in the past five days.

The contract rose 65 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $91.64 yesterday, the highest settlement since Jan. 15. It reached $92.42 in late trade after Syncrude said freezing temperatures shut some units at its plant at Fort McMurray, Alberta.

New York oil futures reached a record $100.09 a barrel on Jan. 3. Prices fell the following three weeks as speculation that the U.S. will fall into a recession pushed global equity markets lower.


The recent recovery in U.S. stock markets isn't convincing and oil may struggle to get above $94 without a sustained recovery in equity markets, Hartmann said. A seasonal increase in U.S. stockpiles and the likelihood that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will maintain production levels this week are also bearish.

``If we do get some economic troubles and there's concern about demand, then a decision by OPEC to keep production steady is basically an increase in supply,'' he said.

Brent crude for March settlement rose 62 cents, or 0.7 percent, to close at $92 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange yesterday. Brent touched a record $98.50 on Jan. 3.

The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee will announce its rate decision at about 2:15 p.m. New York time today.

An Energy Department report today will probably show U.S. oil stockpiles rose for a third week, gaining 2 million barrels, according to a survey of analysts. Gasoline inventories probably increased 1.9 million barrels last week, the 12th straight gain.

OPEC nations produce more than 40 percent of the world's oil. Members meet in Vienna on Feb. 1 and are likely to keep the group's output target unchanged at 29.67 million barrels a day, according to 29 of 32 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

``OPEC will probably roll over targets on Friday,'' Tim Evans, an energy analyst at Citigroup Global Markets Inc. in New York, said yesterday. ``There's really no reason for them to rush and do anything because they are meeting again on March 5. If the rollover is a mistake they can revisit it in a month.''

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