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Warri blasts: Oil prices jump to $82

By Hector Igbikiowubo with Agency reports

LAGOS—OIL prices rose 2.4 percent, Tuesday, moving April delivery to about $82 per barrel. This came on the heels of OPEC ministers’ decision, Wednesday, to leave output unchanged.

Oil prices rose the most in four weeks, yesterday, after Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed its credit ratings on Greece, strengthening the euro against the U.S. currency.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps 40 percent of the world’s crude, will probably maintain output targets at a meeting today in Vienna.

Meanwhile, the dollar weakened 0.7 percent against a basket of currencies after the Federal Reserves signaled it would hold benchmark interest rates near zero and renewed a pledge to keep them there for an “extended period.” The Fed also said the U.S. labour market was “stabilizing” following a recession.

The dollar also fell after European finance ministers agreed to technical terms on Monday to provide debt-stricken Greece with aid. A flagging dollar makes oil cheaper for holders of other currencies.

Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said, Tuesday, that OPEC may not need to adjust targets this year, after it scaled back output by 4.2 million barrels a day in late 2008 to prop up falling oil prices. OPEC is likely to hold production targets steady when its ministers meet in Vienna next Wednesday.

Naimi told reporters in Vienna: “We have been sailing very well and will continue to sail very well,” adding that OPEC saw no need to adjust supplies.

U.S. crude prices for April rose $1.90 to settle at $81.70 a barrel. April ICE Brent futures, which expired Tuesday, rose $1.13 to settle at $79.02 a barrel.

A report late Tuesday from the private industry American Petroleum Institute showed that crude stocks rose for the seventh straight time last week, but by less than many analysts expected.

The API report showed U.S. crude stocks rose 403,000 barrels in the week through March 12, versus analyst expectations of a 1.1 million barrel rise. A weekly inventory report from the U.S. government Energy Information Administration is due, Wednesday.

Oil prices had slid nearly two percent on Monday, falling below $80 a barrel for the first time since March 4 on fears that a 16-month high in consumer inflation in China might lead to further Chinese monetary tightening as early as this week.

China has already tightened bank reserve requirements twice this year, with each move hitting commodity markets worried about demand growth.

The threat of future attacks on the oil industry in Nigeria may be supporting oil after militants detonated two car bombs outside a government building on Monday.


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