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Oil prices higher on Middle East conflict

05 Jan 2009 07:31 GMT

Crude oil rises above $47 in Asia as Gaza conflict intensifies.



Oil prices rose to above $47 per barrel in Asia today, fuelled by the ground offensive by Israeli troops in Gaza which heightened tensions in the oil-producing Middle East.

Israeli poured thousands of ground troops into Gaza on Saturday as it stepped up an eight-day bombing campaign of Hamas targets aimed at ending Islamist rocket attacks from across the border.

Crude oil for February delivery rose to as much as $48.68 per barrel in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange(NYMEX) as Israel intensified its military campaign against Hamas militants, raising concerns regarding possible supply disruptions in the Middle East.

Oil prices gained over 5 percent after news agency IRNA reported that an Iranian military commander had called on Islamic countries to cut oil exports to Israel's supporters in response to the military offensive in Gaza.

Despite the spike in crude oil prices, some analysts said the rally was unsustainable due to low energy demand caused by the global economic downturn.

Meanwhile, investors were also keeping close tabs on the threat of a cut in oil production by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC has pledged to reduce output quotas by 4 million barrels per day since October.

In Nigeria, an attack on an oil pipeline also helped bolster prices. Army chief Brigadier General Wuyep Rimtip said on Saturday that he was not sure how severely the pipeline had been damaged and suspected local youths rather than militants were responsible for the attack.

WTI crude for February delivery was trading at $47.45 per barrel at 07:21 GMT, up $1.11 on the previous settlement price. Meanwhile, Brent crude on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) was pegged at $47.67, $0.76 higher than at the close of business on Friday.






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