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Oil rose to near $99 (Dh363.33) a barrel on Friday as an incursion into Iraq by Turkish troops and cold weather in the US Northeast outweighed concerns about mounting problems in the US economy.
US crude settled up 58 cents to $98.81 (Dh362.63) a barrel after hitting $99.37 (Dh364.69) earlier in the session, as snow blanketed the US Northeast and boosted heating oil futures. London Brent crude settled up 77 cents to $97.01 (Dh356.03) a barrel.
"The heating oil market has been supportive," said Eric Wittenauer, analyst at AG Edwards in St Louis.
Thousands of Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq in their hunt for Kurdish PKK guerrillas, a senior military source said on Friday, escalating a conflict that could destabilize the oil-producing region.
Oil surged to a record high $101.32 (Dh371.84) on Wednesday on expectations Opec could maintain or reduce output at its March meeting, near the inflation-adjusted high of $102.53 (Dh376.29) hit in April 1980.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday said prices near $100 (Dh367) a barrel were fair and would likely stay near the current level. He added the South American nation would do all it can within Opec to support prices.
Further strength has come from a rush of speculator money as funds seek a hedge against inflation.
Concerns about the economic health of the United States have helped temper gains in recent weeks, as gasoline demand in the top consuming country has shown signs of weakening under the pressure of the mortgage crisis and the credit crunch.
US inventories have swelled, with crude stockpiles up 4.2 million barrels last week while gasoline inventories hit 14-year highs.
While demand from emerging economies such as China and India keep supporting crude prices, analysts have warned of the effects of a potential US recession.
"With oil demand growth risks skewed to the downside in the US, we believe there is a growing risk that oil prices are now entering overbought territory," Deutsche Bank analysts said in a research note.
Investment bank Merrill Lynch said the United States was in a recession that could be much worse than the one it faced in 2001, closer to the sharper economic slump of the 1990s.
Oil has averaged $93.02 (Dh341.38) a barrel this year, up nearly a third on the average in 2007 of $72.30 (Dh265.34). (Reuters)
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