March Crude Up Near $80 on Tensions in France, Iran

Oil bulls continued to charge the market ahead of the weekend. Crude futures, resisting an $80-threshold, pushed through choppy trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday to close higher in spite of a bearish move by the Federal Reserve.

Soaring to an eight-month high against a basket of foreign currencies today, the dollar drew strength from the Fed's unexpected decision to increase its discount rate late Thursday.

However, light, sweet crude oil for March delivery, pricing in at $79.81 a barrel, defied a stronger greenback as traders for the energy commodity instead focused on yesterday's geopolitical factors. Heating oil and gasoline futures also closed in positive territory above $2 a gallon.

NYMEX crude's new front-month contract will roll into effect on Monday.

On the opposite side of the energy coin, March natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub settled on the downside to just four cents shy of $5 Mcf.

Rising stock market indexes, an extended strike at six of Total's French refineries and concern over Iran's nuclear intentions all fueled energy markets for the day.

Additionally, the CGT union announced that workers are planning to strike on Feb. 23 at ExxonMobil's 240,000-barrels-per-day Port-Jerome refinery. Any halt in the refinery's output is likely to help prop up oil prices next week.

On the domestic front, the American Petroleum Institute reported Friday that demand for crude oil and petroleum products has fallen significantly against year-ago levels.

Meanwhile, Euroilstock data reported by Reuters indicates that oil output from refineries in 16 European countries has declined by 6.5% to 11.317 million barrels per day in January from the previous year.