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Oil steady above $145 in Asia on Saudi declaration

Oil steady above $145 in Asia on Saudi declaration

Published: July 4, 2008

Filed at 1:57 a.m. ET

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Oil prices remained near record highs above $145 a barrel in Asia after Saudi Arabia’s oil minister suggested his country doesn’t plan to boost production.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery was little changed, down 3 cents at $145.26 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, midday in Singapore. Crude futures rose to $145.85, a record high, in New York on Thursday before settling at a record finish of $145.29 a barrel.

Oil prices have risen more than 50 percent so far this year.

Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Naimi said Thursday in Madrid that the world’s biggest oil exporter had no immediate plans to boost crude output because there was no need to do so. Naimi said Saudi Arabia is ready to raise production if the kingdom determines supply-and-demand fundamentals have changed. But for now, ”all our buyers are satisfied and happy,” he said.

Gains by the dollar Thursday against the euro helped keep oil prices from rising further. The greenback strengthened after the European Central Bank raised its benchmark interest rate an expected quarter point but signaled it didn’t expect additional rate hikes that might further boost euro.

The dollar on Friday was slightly weaker against the euro at $1.5720. The yen was holding steady to the U.S. currency at 106.76.

A falling dollar has helped boost oil prices this year as investors often buy commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation when the greenback weakens. Also, a struggling dollar makes oil less expensive to investors overseas.

Oil prices are rising amid a drop in stock prices worldwide, with the major stock market indices all down by double digits since the start of the year.

Recent saber-rattling in the Middle East is another reason for this week’s increase. Traders are concerned that a conflict with Iran could disrupt tight global supplies.

In other Nymex trade, heating oil futures rose 0.2 cent to $4.108 a gallon (3.8 liters) while gasoline prices were flat at $3.571 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 2.4 cents to $13.601 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude futures rose 8 cents to $146.16 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

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