NEW YORK - Oil prices jumped yesterday as traders had concerns about supply, stoked by a new round of Turkish air strikes in northern Iraq and a growing belief that domestic oil inventories fell last week.
Turkey's military said its warplanes bombed eight suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq yesterday. It was the third Turkish strike inside Iraq in less than two weeks. Oil traders worry that the rebels could cut oil supplies from Iraq in retaliation.
The latest attacks came as oil investors awaited inventory data today from the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration. It is expected to show crude supplies fell 1.3 million barrels last week, the sixth straight weekly decline.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery rose $1.84 to settle at $95.97 a barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
At the pump, meanwhile, gasoline prices inched up 0.1 cent yesterday to a national average of $2.973 a gallon, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Gasoline prices have stabilized after falling nearly 14 cents since mid-November, when they peaked above $3.11 a gallon as oil prices approached $100 a barrel.
Trading in crude futures yesterday was light, meaning the sharp price move could be exaggerated, said Linda Rafield, senior oil analyst at Platts, the energy research arm of the McGraw-Hill Cos. Inc.
Analysts said the weaker dollar also boosted oil prices. Crude futures offer a hedge against a weak dollar, and oil futures bought and sold in dollars are more attractive to foreign investors when the greenback is falling.