Oil prices above US$114 traders mull lower gasoline stocks

NEW YORK, August 20, 2008 (AFP) – Oil prices rose on Wednesday after a sharp spike the previous day as traders nervously mulled a larger-than-expected decline in US gasoline stocks.

Prices closed higher in edgy trade, wiping out declines experienced earlier in the day, as traders assessed a weekly US inventory report for clues on energy demand.

New York’s main oil futures contract, light sweet crude for September delivery, closed up 1.11 dollars at 114.98 dollars a barrel.
In London, Brent North Sea crude for October delivery climbed 45 cents to settle up at 114.36 dollars.

The price action occured after the US Department of Energy said reported that US crude oil stockpiles climbed 9.4 million barrels in the week ending August 15 — analysts had forecast a much smaller gain of 800,000 barrels.

The DoE said US gasoline reserves meanwhile slumped 6.2 million barrels last week, compared with market expectations for a drop of 2.4 million barrels.

Gasoline stocks are closely watched at this time of year as American motorists are on the highways for their summer vacations, typically pushing up demand for gasoline.

Oil prices had closed up by more than one do