Oil price rises again as investors track Europe


THE price of oil rose for a second straight day yesterday as European leaders tried to find a way to clean up their financial mess.

Benchmark oil rose 31 cents to finish US$84.29 per barrel in New York. The small gains over the past two days came after the price fell more than 8 percent last week as gloomy economic data from the US, China and Europe raised questions about the strength of demand for oil and other energy-related products.

Finance ministers and central bank presidents of the world's seven wealthiest countries held an emergency conference call yesterday to discuss options being considered by European leaders, but no substantive details were announced. The US has said it expects to see more action in the next two weeks to strengthen the European banking system.

The financial crisis is affecting nations that do business with Europe. Some US business owners have said that their sales were hurt by Europe's weak economy. That's one reason they pulled back on hiring in May. Europe also is a major destination for exports from China, which is the world's second-largest economy behind the US. China is rolling out a stimulus program to help offset its economic slowdown.

A fresh sign of Europe's weakening economy came yesterday as Markit Economics reported that its composite Purchasing Managers' Index for countries that use the euro fell last month from April. It was the steepest rate of decline in the region's manufacturing and services production since June 2009.

In the US, service companies grew at a slightly faster pace last month. The Institute for Supply Management said that its index of non-manufacturing activity rose to 53.7 last month from 53.5 in April. A reading above 50 indicates expansion. The survey covers retail, construction, financial services, health care and hotels, among other non-manufacturing businesses.

Most analysts expect demand for oil and other energy products to remain weak until there is a clear idea of how European leaders plan to control the financial crisis. US oil supplies are at the highest level since 1990 while natural gas inventories are nearly 35 percent above the five-year average.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, dropped 1 cent to end at US$98.84 in London.

In other energy futures trading, heating oil rose less than a penny to end at US$2.63 per gallon, gasoline rose 1.4 cents to finish at US$2.68 per gallon and natural gas rose 3.1 cents to US$2.45 per 1,000 cubic feet.

At the pump, gasoline prices continue to fall. The national average for a gallon of regular fell 1.5 cents yesterday to US$3.57, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That's about 21 cents less than a month ago.



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