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Oil scales fresh peak in London

BBC | April 20 2006

Crude oil traded in London has hit a record high of $74.16 a barrel, the seventh consecutive day in which it has set a new price peak.

Concerns that increased demand for petrol will squeeze already stretched supplies have kept prices high, as data showed a fall in US gasoline stocks.

US-Iran tensions and Nigerian supply concerns are also driving the market.

Brent crude later eased to $74.10 while US light, sweet crude hovered near its $72.40 high of recent days.

In Asian trading, prices edged up 3 cents to $72.20.

Iran issue

Analysts said prices were likely to keep spiking higher as long as there was an atmosphere of global political uncertainty fuelled by Iran's dispute with the international community over its nuclear intentions.

Iranian news agencies reported President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying that the global oil price had yet to reach "its real value".

There are fears that oil exports from Iran - the world's fourth largest producer - could be disrupted if its dispute with the international community worsens.

"Besides the fundamental supply and demand information, prices are driven by the emotional momentum of the Iranian issue," said Victor Shum, from Singapore-based analysts Purvin & Gertz.

Lower US stocks

US gasoline supplies are lower than many had expected ahead of the peak summer holiday season.

Inventory stocks are currently running 5% lower than last year, having fallen by more than five million barrels last week.

According to the US Department of Energy, demand for gasoline is nearly 1% higher than this time last year, with 9.1 million barrels a day being drawn down.

Crude oil stocks also fell by 800,000 barrels a day, according to the latest figures, although stocks remain higher than this time last year.

"Healthy crude inventories have been keeping a lid on oil from rising further, but if we continue to see a drawdown in stock levels, that lid could come off," said Tony Nunan, manager of the risk management business at Mitsubishi Corporation.

Meeting in Qatar

Meanwhile, oil producing and consuming nations are scheduled to meet in the Gulf state of Qatar at the weekend to try and find a way of stabilising soaring oil prices.

Ministers from 65 countries, including EU, the United States and the oil producers cartel OPEC, as well as oil company bosses, will attend the Doha meeting of the International Energy Forum (IEF) from April 22 to 24.


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