Oil tops $102 a barrel; stocks seesaw, gold at new high

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U.S. oil prices rose to new 2 1/2-year highs Wednesday amid continued heavy fighting between Libyan rebels and forces loyal to strongman Moammar Kadafi.

But Wall Street seemed relatively unruffled by the latest climb, after a sharp sell-off on Tuesday.


April crude futures in New York closed up $2.60 to $102.23 a barrel, after gaining $2.66 on Tuesday.

The London oil price, considered a better barometer of world prices, rose as high as $117.81 a barrel, also a new 2 1/2-year high.

Libyan government forces launched a counterattack against a key oil facility and air base in rebel-controlled eastern Libya, according to this Times report.

The International Energy Agency estimated that as much as one million barrels of Libya’s total 1.6-million-barrel daily crude production now is shut-in. But Saudi Arabia has pledged to make up the difference, and the IEA said “some European refiners indicate there is ample crude until at least the end of March.”

Some investors continued to push money into gold, which closed up $6.50 to a record $1,437.20 an ounce in New York futures trading, after rising as high as $1,441. Silver also rallied, up 41 cents to $34.82 an ounce.

The U.S. stock market seesawed but most major indexes were modestly higher despite oil’s advance. An upbeat estimate of February job growth helped the mood after Tuesday’s sell-off. The government will report the official data on February employment on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 29 points to 12,087 at about noon PST, with an hour to go in the trading session. The Dow had tumbled 168 points on Tuesday as oil jumped.

[Updated at 1:10 p.m. PST: The Dow closed up fractionally, adding 8.78 points to 12,066.80. Most major indexes also ended with small gains, but trading volume was fairly anemic.]

-- Tom Petruno