Oil prices fell below $97 a barrel today, after Hurricane Ike inflicted minimal damage to oil installations on the Texas coast. Light, sweet crude for October delivery declined $4.39 to $96.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by noon in Europe, after finishing at $101.18 on Friday. Federal officials said yesterday that the storm destroyed only about 10 of the Gulf's 3,800 oil and gas platforms.
"Market sentiment is decidedly bearish, with all these concerns about developed countries going into recession or a serious slowdown impacting oil demand," said one analyst. Even reports of militant attacks on Nigeria's oil infrastructure couldn't spark a rally, but a weakening dollar did stop the decline. In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures fell 13.31 cents to $2.806 a gallon, while gasoline prices dropped 18.01 cents to $2.59 a gallon