Oil prices put crude above $30

| 12/17/2002

Oil prices surged 5 percent Dec. 16, pushing U.S. crude above $30 for the first time in two months as a strike in Venezuela, now in its third week, carved into supplies from the world's fifth largest oil exporter, Reuters reported.

U.S. crude futures hit the $30 a barrel mark for the first time since Oct. 15, jumping $1.73 to a peak of $30.17. International benchmark Brent crude oil soared $1.17 to $28.38 a barrel in London.

"Up to this point, the market seems to have been far too relaxed about the loss of so much crude oil at a time when inventories are already well below prudent levels," Paul Horsnell of investment bank J.P. Morgan said.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan army commandos Dec. 15 stormed an oil tanker and arrested its striking crew as President Hugo Chavez tried to break the strike that has paralyzed exports. More than a half million protesters took to the streets of Caracas to demand early elections.

About 40 oil tankers were waiting anchored off Venezuelan ports. Venezuela, which normally supplies 14 percent of U.S. imports, is pumping one sixth of its normal volume of crude oil.