NEW YORK, Dec 24 – Oil prices rose Tuesday on concerns that fighting in oil producer South Sudan could curtail petroleum production.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for delivery in February advanced 31 cents to $99.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Trade ended early Tuesday due to the Christmas holiday.
European benchmark Brent oil for delivery in February gained 34 cents to $111.90 a barrel in London.
Oil traders are keeping close eye on South Sudan, where United Nations officials say waves of violence have already claimed thousands of lives.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned warring factions that reports of crimes against humanity will be investigated. Ban has also asked the Security Council to nearly double the size of the UN mission in the country.
Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho Securities, said South Sudan usually exports about 220,000 barrels a day to Japan, Malaysia and China.
“The rumor supposedly is that these barrels are still exporting,” Yawger said. “But they could start scaling back any day.”
“As the year comes to a close, the risk of an all out civil war that could stymie the country’s production of around 250,000 barrels per day is growing,” said JBC Energy in a note to clients.
After retreating for much of the late fall, oil prices have rallied over much of the last week on better economic data and continued supply problems in Libya.
On Tuesday, solid reports on US durable goods orders and new home sales strengthened confidence that the US economy is improving.
The weekly report on US oil inventories will be released Friday instead of Wednesday owing to the Christmas holiday. Analysts project US supplies fell 2.2 million barrels, according to a survey by the Wall Street Journal.