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Broadgate: Market News 2/3

2 March 2012

Oil fell in New York and headed for the first weekly decline in four after Saudi Arabia denied a reported pipeline explosion in its Eastern province.

A fire occurred in an industrial area in the town of Safwa in Shiite-dominated Qatif near Saudi Arabia’s Ras Tanura refinery, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The blaze didn’t damage the refinery or any pipeline in the area, said two people familiar with the situation who declined to be identified.

Oil has gained this year on concern a dispute between the West and Iran over the Persian Gulf nation’s nuclear program will lead to military conflict in a region that holds more than half the world’s crude.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on March 5 to discuss the issue.

The Obama administration is escalating warnings that the U.S. may join Israel in an attack on the nuclear facilities if Iran doesn’t dispel concern that its atomic-research program is aimed at producing weapons.

U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, moving back to 2008 highs, after a jump in bank shares and further upbeat data on the labor market, though sharp gains in oil prices limited the advance.

After losses on Wednesday, the rebound took the S&P 500 back above its 1,370 resistance level, which is seen as key to maintaining momentum in this five-month rally.

U.S. jobless claims, which fell 2,000 to 351,000 in the latest week, were viewed as another sign the labor market may be on the mend.

The news was partly offset by an Institute for Supply Management report showing the pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector unexpectedly slowed in February.

Mild weather helped many U.S. chains post better-than-expected monthly sales in February, while U.S. automakers reported surprisingly healthy sales in the face of rising gas prices.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s lack of a reference to further quantitative easing at congressional testimony on Wednesday sparked a heavy sell-off in bullion, sending the metal to a one-month low short of $1,700.

Gold’s fall to the lower end of its previous range showed the lack of conviction required to push prices above $1,800 or higher, but analysts and traders saw Wednesday’s plunge as a healthy correction rather than the end of the bull run.

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