LONDON — Crude oil rose here Friday, taking its gain for the week to more than 6 percent, as inventories in the U.S. that are near a 24-year low raised concern that supplies could run short in the world's biggest energy-consuming nation.
"Inventories are still too low," said Peter Gignoux, head of oil trading at Salomon Smith Barney. "The fundamentals of the market haven't changed, but people's perception is keeping the market strong."
Brent crude oil for October settlement rose as much as 75 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $30.91 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange. September crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 31 cents to $32.25 a barrel in electronic trading, and prices are expected to open there when floor trading begins.
While rising oil prices have helped boost shares of oil companies such as Total Fina Elf SA to a record, they have also caused inflation to accelerate across Europe. The inflation rate in the European Union in the last year was 2.2 percent, the European Union statistics office said, though would have been barely half that without the rise in oil prices, analysts said.
Prices have risen and touched their highest since 1990 after the U.S. government said crude oil inventories last week stood at 288.8 million barrels, 10 percent less than a year earlier and among the lowest levels of the past 24 years. Analysts warn of a potential shortage of heating oil should colder-than-normal weather appear during the coming Northern Hemisphere winter.