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Oil reignites rally towards $100
SYDNEY, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Oil launched a fresh assault toward the $100 milestone on Friday as the dollar touched new lows and supply disruptions raised fears of a winter supply crunch.
U.S. crude for December delivery rose as high as $96.48 a barrel and stood 77 cents higher at $96.23 a barrel by 0612 GMT, reversing the previous day's 91-cent drop. London Brent crude rose 63 cents to $93.42.
Oil had fallen on Thursday, its second straight day of losses, after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke highlighted the twin threats of slower growth and inflation for the U.S. economy, triggering profit-taking that pulled oil further back from its record high $98.62 earlier this week.
But the dollar's slide to yet another record low against the euro on Friday helped maintain the allure of oil for financial investors and speculators who have helped lift oil by 40 percent since mid-August.
The loss of North Sea production due to a storm coupled with a weeks-long outage at a diesel refinery unit in Texas added fundamental fuel to the gains, although one operator said Norwegian supplies would not be as hard hit as feared.
"There is still a lot of bullish news out in the market and I think investors are returning their focus on the short-term supply concerns now," said David Moore, a resource analyst in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
BP and ConocoPhillips said they hoped North Sea production could be restarted on Friday.
Norway's StatoilHydro said on Friday that it had shut only 110,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, about one-third as much as it expected after determining that it could maintain production at some fields.
In Texas, a diesel hydrotreater at Valero Energy Corp's 325,000 bpd Port Arthur refiner is likely to remain shut for two to four weeks after a fire on Thursday, sources said.
Oil traders are concerned that global stockpiles could dwindle further before Northern Hemisphere demand peaks this winter, driving prices beyond the $100 mark.
But those fears have had to contend with worrying signals from the U.S. economy, which Bernanke said could grow more slowly and register higher inflation than expected, even though it did not appear headed for a recession.
Signs of slackening growth would suggest lower demand for oil from the world's biggest consumer, where average consumption over the past four weeks fell about 0.4 percent from a year ago, according to government data this week. (Reporting by Fayen Wong; Editing by Tomasz Janowski & Kim Coghill.
Source: Guardian Unlimited