Crude prices briefly grazed a $100 a barrel early Wednesday as violence continues to escalate in Libya.
Light, sweet crude settled at $99.41 a barrel, up $4.01 from the previous trading session. Earlier in the day, crude futures hit the triple digits for the first time since Oct. 2, 2008.
As protesters continue to clash with Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, many major oil companies are suspending operations in Libya. The company's biggest oil producer, Eni, has halted operations, along with Repsol-YPF, Wintershall, OMV, and many others. Libya holds the largest oil reserves in Africa and is the eighth-largest oil producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Investors fear that protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa will significantly curb shipments from oil-rich countries in the region.
Oil markets remained on edge, despite the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Saudi Arabia's pledge to provide additional oil in case of a shortage in world supplies.
In anticipation of cooler March weather, natural gas futures gained 0.9 percent, trading at $3.90 per thousand cubic feet. The weekly U.S. stockpiles report is scheduled to be released Thursday, a day later due to the Presidents' Day holiday on Monday. The intraday range for natural gas was $3.82 to $3.93.
Gasoline futures also gained 11.28 cents settling at $2.715 a gallon. Front-month gasoline peaked at $2.73 and bottomed out at $2.60 Wednesday.
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