Oil rises after inventory report

By Chavon Sutton, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices rose Wednesday as the government's weekly inventory report showed a smaller than expected increase in oil supplies and a dip in gasoline inventory.

What prices are doing: Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose 60 cents to settle at $82.09 a barrel.

What's moving the market: Prices climbed after the closely watched inventory report from the Energy Information Administration showed mixed results for the week ended Mar. 5.

The EIA report showed that U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 1.4 million barrels, below analyst estimates of 2.1 million barrels, according to a survey from research firm Platts.

Gasoline and distillate inventories fell by 2.9 million and 2.2 million barrels, respectively. Those inventories fell more sharply than analysts expected, indicating greater demand.

According to Platts, analysts expected gas inventories to drop 338,000 barrels and distillates to fall 950,000.

What analysts are saying: Oil prices reached an intraday high of $83.03, following an Accuweather.com hurricane report forecast "above normal threats," but retreated as news about increased support of the so-called Volcker rule spooked traders.

"Whenever the Volcker rule has come up, there's been a negative knee-jerk reaction," said Andrew Lebow of MF Global.

The threat of more limits on stock trading tends to prompt investors to sell their holdings, which spills over into the commodities markets, according to Lebow.

"Oil trade is almost like a financial instrument these days," he said.

Supporting higher oil prices, analysts say, are upbeat feelings about an economic recovery and expectations that Greece's debt debacle is stabilizing.

Oil is trading between $83.00 to $85.00 a barrel and is expected to stay strong as the economy continues to rebound, according to a number of analysts.

"A continuation of a rally will be function of how robust the recovery is going to be in the second half of the year," said Lebow.

Looking ahead: Investors are keeping an eye on initial jobless claims data due out Mar. 11. Also on tap is an OPEC meeting scheduled for Mar. 17 in Vienna, but analysts expect production quotas to remain unchanged. To top of page

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