Oil Futures Add Gains On Supply Anxiety & Warning Consumption Fears (Oil Prices)

February 8th, 2008 (10:52 AM - MST)

New York - Oil futures surged back above US $90 a barrel Friday, adding to the previous session's gains on renewed concerns about soppy disruptions and waning fears that a U.S. economic recession would seriously curb demand.

Light sweet crude for March delivery jumped $3.03 to $91.14 a barrel late int he New York Mercantile Exchange session.

Crude gained on word that oil exports from Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil produces and a major U.S. supplier, could fall by as much as a million barrels a day due to a deteriorating security situation and planned maintenance.

Prices also rose on news that North Sea oil production has been cut by 280,000 barrels a day due to technical problems at a Total SA field, and that Russian crude output could fall this year due to depletion, JBC Energy GmbH, an energy research firm in Vienna, said in a research report.

Concerns that Venezuela might retaliate after ExxonMobil Corp. won court orders freezing the assets of its state oil company also pushed prices higher. ExxonMobil is seeking compensation for assets appropriated last year as part of President Hugo Chavez's nationalization of several large oil products.

Meanwhile, energy investors found reason to hope that the American economy will dodge a serious downturn.

"Crude traders also responded positively to the news that Congress has passed an economic stimulus package aimed a boosting consumption and staving off a recession," commented Addison Armstrong, director of exchange traded markets at TFS Energy Futures LLC in Stamford, Conn.

There also were worries that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would cut production to support prices which have pulled back from a record $100.09 a barrel reached early last month.

Analysts said technical factors also lifted oil futures. Twice in recent weeks, oil prices have dipped to nearly $86, only to bounce back.

That price is seen as a psychologically important support level that may keep prices trading in a range around $90 for the foreseeable future.

"If we break below that, I think we're going to see further weakness," said Adam Hewison, president of INO.com, a website that specializes in futures trading.

At the pump, meanwhile, U.S. gasoline prices fell 0.6 cents overnight to a national average of $2.966 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service.

Retail gas prices have retreated from above $3 a gallon in recent weeks, but remained about 77 cents higher than a year ago, and the Energy Department predicts they will rise to new records near $3.50 a gallon this spring.

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