Oil futures: Crude rises as traders shrug off Irene impact

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Oil futures climbed Monday as traders shrugged off the relatively minor impact of Hurricane Irene and focused on a series of upbeat economic headlines in the U.S.

Trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange began as normal Monday and electronic trading was unaffected by the storm. A Nymex spokesman reported no damage or technical issues at the exchange, which is located in Manhattan's Battery Park City and was covered by the city's evacuation order over the weekend.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery traded up $1.98, or 2.3%, to $87.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe rose 67 cents, or 0.6%, to $112.03 a barrel.

Expectations of widespread refinery shutdowns or damaged oil infrastructure failed to come to pass over the weekend after Irene lost much of its strength as it made its way up the East Coast.

Only a handful of Northeast refineries reported issues. ConocoPhillips refinery in Trainer, Pa., was operating at about 80% of capacity. The company's refinery in Linden, N.J., was closed altogether on Saturday evening.

Gasoline futures, which rose sharply on Friday on expectations that refiners would face long shutdowns, sold off Monday.

"Initial indications are that the storm was less destructive than feared and as a result the products are shedding some of their storm premium that was injected late last week," said Jim Ritterbusch, head of the oil-trading advisory firm Ritterbusch and Associates, in a research note.

Front-month September reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, fell 2 cents, or 0.7%, to $2.9146 a gallon.

Heating oil, however, traded higher on the prospect of higher demand for diesel fuel to power electrical generators, said Carl Larry, director of energy derivatives and research at Blue Ocean Brokerage.

September heating oil recently traded up 0.64 cents, or 0.2%, to $3.0165 a gallon.

Nymex oil futures advanced after the Commerce Department reported a bigger-than-expected increase in July consumer spending, a rare data point suggesting resilience in the economy going into the second half of the year.

Signs of a slowing economy in the U.S., the world's largest crude-consuming country, have taken the steam out of the oil market in recent months. Nymex crude has slumped from a high of nearly $115 a barrel in May, sticking to a tight range around $85 a barrel recently amid uncertainty about the economic outlook and the fate of crude-oil exports in Libya.

The North African country looked closer to resuming exports on Monday, after the rebel-controlled Arabian Gulf Oil Co. said it plans to restart production and exports by the end of September. Initial output levels would be between 50,000 and 100,000 barrels a day, an Agoco spokesman told Dow Jones Newswires.



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