Market watch: Oil markets buoyed by Russian quota cuts, increased US-Iraqi tensions

By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Mar. 4 -- Oil futures were buoyed Friday by hopes that Russia would agree to extend its 150,000 b/d oil export cut until the end of the summer. Increased tensions between Iraq and the US also had bullish effects on Friday's oil markets, analysts said.

A statement released by Alí Rodríguez Araque, the Venezuelan secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, expressed hopes for Russia's intention to extend its export cuts. Rodríguez and OPEC Pres. Rilwanu Lukman initiated a visit to Russia over the weekend.

Rodríguez also said that it was likely that OPEC members would extend their current quota limits as well when members hold a meeting mid-month.

The April contract for benchmark US sweet, light crude rose 66¢ to $22.40/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where the May contract also rose 68¢ to $22.64/bbl Friday.

However, in after-hours electronic trading, the April contract lost another 4¢ to $22.36/bbl, while the May contract also fell by 4¢ to $22.60/bbl.

Heating oil for April delivery gained 1.72¢ to 58.87¢/gal during regular trading Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Unleaded gasoline for April delivery, meanwhile, gained 2.82¢ to close at 70.6¢/gal.

NYMEX natural gas for April delivery rose 0.2¢ to settle at $2.36/Mcf. Meanwhile, in London on the International Petroleum Exchange, the April natural gas contract added 1.9¢ to $2.40/Mcf.

IPE North Sea Brent crude futures recovered Friday, settling at $21.89/bbl, up 56¢.

The average price for OPEC's basket of seven crudes rose 39¢ to $19.18/bbl Friday. The price of the basket this year has averaged $18.58/bbl. For the month of February, the basket price averaged $18.89/bbl, vs. $18.33/bbl in January and $17.53/bbl in December 2001.

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