Oil Futures Move Sharply Higher in Light Trading

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) - Oil futures prices moved sharply higher in late trading Thursday, largely in response to reports that OPEC would take steps next week to bolster prices.

In a statement issued in Lagos, Nigeria, and reported in the United States late in the trading session, OPEC President Rilwanu Lukman said he would announce measures March 22 to stabilize the market.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, contracts for April delivery of West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark crude, jumped 28 cents to $16.28 per 42-gallon barrel. Most of the increase came in the last few minutes of trading.

Refined products also finished higher on the day. April contracts for wholesale gasoline gained .36 cent to settle at 45.60 cents per gallon, while April heating oil moved up .14 cent to 44.22 cents per gallon.

Before news of Lukman's statement was released, prices had fluctuated in reaction to a variety of rumors, some involving reports of price discounting, others focusing on the unrest in Panama.

Traders said such reports had become the lifeblood of the market recently.

``The market will trade aggressively on any rumor,'' said John Hill, a vice president for Merrill Lynch Energy Futures. …

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