Oil above US$106 on Middle East conflict


SINGAPORE — Oil prices rose above US$106 a barrel Thursday in Asia amid a wave of violent protests and uprisings in the oil-rich Arab world. Benchmark crude for May delivery was up 29 cents at US$106.04 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 78 cents to settle at US$105.75 on Wednesday, the highest close since Sept. 26, 2008. In London, Brent crude was up 8 cents at US$115.55 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange. In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil added 1.2 cents at US$3.07 a gallon and gasoline gained 0.3 cent to US$3.02 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 3.5 cents to US$4.37 per 1,000 cubic feet. Oil has jumped 24 percent since Feb. 15 as violent conflict roils the Middle East and North Africa. Crude prices were also lifted by signs U.S. consumers aren’t letting rising fuel costs crimp demand. The U.S. Energy Department said gasoline inventories fell 5.3 million barrels last week, and gasoline stocks are down 8.9 percent during the last five weeks.