Oil below $86 as US refineries survive hurricane

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices rose to near $86 a barrel Monday in Asia after a hurricane left minimal damage among refineries along the U.S East Coast.

Benchmark oil for October delivery was up 46 cents to $85.83 at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose 7 cents to settle at $85.37 on Friday.

In London, Brent crude for October delivery was down 23 cents at $111.13 on the ICE Futures exchange.

Tropical Storm Irene packed hurricane-force winds when it slammed into the East Coast near North Carolina this weekend and headed north into New York. The storm was blamed for at least 21 deaths, widespread severe flooding and more than 4 million homes and business losing power.

Oil refineries in the region have so far reported no major damage.

The National Hurricane Center said Monday that Irene was maintaining 50 mph (80 kph) maximum sustained winds as it neared the U.S.-Canada border.

“The greatest impact from the storm is likely to be the impact on regional economic activity caused by flooding and power outages,” J.P. Morgan said in a report. “These could take some time to restore to normal, and is therefore likely to reduce petroleum demand in the interim.”

After jumping from $84 in February to near $115 in May then sliding back down to $76 earlier this month, crude has traded close to $85 for the past week as traders look for evidence of the severity of the slowdown in economic growth in the U.S. and Europe.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke didn’t propose any new steps to stimulate the economy during a speech in Wyoming on Friday.

In other Nymex trading for October contracts, heating oil fell 0.8 cent to $3.01 per gallon and gasoline futures dropped 0.3 cent to $2.76 per gallon. Natural gas for September delivery slid 2.1 cents to $3.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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