Oil prices rise ahead of Fed chief speech

Associated Press

The price of oil rose to above $95 on Friday as traders awaited a speech by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke for clues on whether the central bank will deliver more help for the struggling U.S. economy.

By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for October delivery was up 71 cents to $95.33 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the Nymex contract fell 87 cents to close at $94.62.

In London, Brent oil was up 63 cents to $113.28 on the ICE Futures exchange.

Investors will be listening to Bernanke's speech at an economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming later Friday for hints of additional steps to spur borrowing and spending in the U.S.

"If the statements made by U.S. Fed Chairman Bernanke prove disappointing, oil prices could come under pressure," said a report from Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

It noted that Hurricane Isaac has had a relatively minor impact on oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and that output from Iran had increased despite U.S.-led sanctions on oil exports meant to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

"Nonetheless, the possible consequences of an escalation of the conflicts in the Middle East should not be underestimated," Commerzbank said. "This is likely to lend support to the oil price in the next few months, despite the ample supplies."

Markets are also anticipating the release of manufacturing data out of China this weekend. Worse-than-expected numbers could put pressure on Beijing for more stimulus measures to help revive growth in the world's No. 2 economy.

In other Nymex energy futures trading, heating oil advanced 1.02 cents to $3.1435 a gallon, while wholesale gasoline added 1.25 cents to $2.9205 a gallon. Natural gas fell 0.08 cent to $2.74 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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