SINGAPORE , (AP) – Oil prices held near a record above $115 a barrel Friday amid concerns about falling supplies and rising global demand.
A host of supply and demand concerns in the U.S. and abroad, as well as the depreciating dollar, have pushed crude prices up more than 4 percent this week.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery was flat at $114.86 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midafternoon in Singapore.
On Thursday, the May contract hit a trading record of $115.54 a barrel in European trading hours as the dollar fell to a new low against the euro. Crude finished the floor session down 7 cents at $114.86 a barrel after falling back when the dollar strengthened.
“In general, a weak U.S. dollar … has some valuation effect on oil prices and other commodities,” said David Moore, a commodity strategist with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.
Investors have been buying oil contracts as a hedge against the weakening dollar, betting that rising commodity prices will offset dollar declines.
Prices were supported by a U.S. Energy Department report on inventories, released Wednesday, that showed gasoline supplies fell 5.5 million barrels last week — much more than what analysts had expected.
That slide comes as the U.S. heads into its peak summer driving season, a period when demand and retail gasoline prices surge. The department’s Energy Information Administration report also showed crude inventories fell 2.3 million barrels for the same period.
Moore said strengthening demand in other parts of the world was also supporting oil prices.
“Outside of the U.S., oil demand in some areas has remained firm,” Moore said. “Indicative of that was the recent Chinese trade data, which showed very strong growth in both crude oil imports and imports of oil products.”
The Chinese government last week reported that China’s oil imports surged to a record 17.3 million tons in March, as the country nearly unseated Japan as the world’s second-largest buyer of foreign crude oil. China imported an average of just over 4 million barrels a day, according to calculations based on data from China’s Customs Administration.
An International Energy Agency report that said Russian oil production dropped this year for the first time in a decade also helped to boost prices.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures fell 0.1 cent to $3.2664 a gallon while gasoline prices lost 0.21 cent to $2.9557 a gallon. Natural gas futures fell 1.8 cents to $10.365 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude futures rose 18 cents to $112.61 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.