9 May 2007 - 11:12
  • News Code: 104211

Oil prices were flat Wednesday amid expectations that an upcoming U.S. inventories report would show a rebound in gasoline stocks for the first time in three months.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery was steady at $62.26 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Prices had climbed Tuesday after the U.S. government said the price of gasoline was expected to rise this summer due to ongoing problems at the nation"s refineries.

Increased violence in Nigeria"s oil region also heightened supply worries in the energy market and lifted prices.

Traders did not react noticeably to the overnight seizure of four more foreign workers in Nigeria"s southern petroleum-producing region. Oil industry officials said attackers carrying assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed a transport vessel carrying the workers in the southern Niger Delta just after midnight Tuesday.

The latest kidnappings -- following dozens last week -- came just hours after militants staged coordinated attacks on three pipelines in the wetlands region, knocking out tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil and keeping global supply fears alive.

Nigeria is Africa"s largest producer of crude, one of the top 10 exporters in the world, and a leading supplier of oil for the United States.

The weekly U.S. Energy Department report on gasoline inventories was due later Wednesday.

 

Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected the report to show gasoline stocks rose 370,000 barrels last week, on average. It would be the first increase in gasoline stocks in 13 consecutive weeks.

Unplanned outages and scheduled maintenance at refineries, sluggish imports, and strong demand have plagued gasoline supplies. There have been at least a dozen additional partial shutdowns in the U.S. and internationally that cut refining capacity.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures dropped marginally to $1.8295 a gallon, and natural gas prices slipped 0.3 cent to $7.634 per 1,000 cubic feet.

 

 

PIN/HAARETZ.COM

News Code 104211

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