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Tension in leading oil producers Nigeria and Iran pushed crude prices to nearly $68 a barrel on Friday (Jan. 27) as high stockpiles in the United States failed to calm investor nerves.
Reuters reported that U.S. light crude settled up $1.50 higher at $67.76 a barrel after touching a session high of $67.95. London Brent crude rose $1.32 to $66.24 a barrel.
“The U.S. inventory data clearly worried the market, but the Iranian and Nigerian situations are providing support to prices,” said Tobin Gorey of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Prices hit a four-month peak of $69.20 for U.S. crude on Monday, but fell steeply after U.S. inventory data on Wednesday showed crude stocks were 11% higher than a year ago.
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia also sought to soothe consumers, saying it would fill any supply gap and that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would keep pumping nearly flat out.
“There seems to be no reason to reduce, so OPEC will continue the way it is right now,” Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters on Friday in New Delhi.
Oil prices have risen on fears that any outage would quickly erode the ample supply cushion.
A five-week campaign of sabotage and kidnapping by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has led to the shut in of more than 220,000 barrels per day of Nigerian oil.
Supplies have also come under pressure in Europe after blasts cut a pipeline supplying gas to Georgia, where temperatures are below freezing.