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Crude futures rise on positive US data, unrest in Nigeria

Oil prices advanced today, getting support from yesterday’s upbeat economic data released in the US and the sabotage of an oil pipeline in Nigeria by a local militant group, which caused Shell (LSE: RDSB) to shut down three pumping stations in the country.

In the US, the Commerce Department said that income and spending rose by 0.4% and 0.2% in December, while the Institute for Supply Management later reported an increase in its manufacturing index to 58.4 in January, reaching its highest level in more than five years. The data had a positive impact on stock markets, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 index and the NASDAQ composite added more than 1%. Asian stocks also got a boost from the update and the strong performance in the US market, making strong gains in today’s sessions.

More US data is due out today with housing and retail sales updates scheduled to be released.

Oil prices have been on the rise in the first day of February after declining 9% in the previous month.

March Brent Crude was just 9 cents short of US$74/barrel, while US light, sweet crude advanced to US$75.13/barrel.

With the exception of BP (LSE: BP), whose quarterly performance missed market expectations, leading to a 4.5% decline in the share price, major oil and gas stocks were in the black.

Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE) led the producers with a 2% climb, while Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW) gained 1.5% and BG Group (LSE: BG) was up 1%.

Another supermajor Shell (LSE: RDSB) was flat.

Services companies also were in demand with Amec (LSE: AMEC) and Petrofac (LSE: PFC) advancing 3.5% an 1.5% respectively.

Midcaps were in buying mode with the exception of Heritage Oil (LSE: HOIL) and Melrose Resources (LSE: MRS), which were flat.

Dragon Oil (LSE: DGO) was the top performer in the sector in the FTSE 250, tacking on 2.5%. JKX Oil and Gas (LSE: JKX) and Dana Petroleum (LSE: DNX) added nearly 2%, while Premier Oil (LSE: PMO) was up 1.5%, Soco International (LSE: SIA) added 1% and Salamander Energy (LSE: SMDR) rose marginally.

Midcap oil and gas services stocks also did well with Wood Group (LSE: WG) and Wellstream Holdings (LSE: WSM) climbing 3% and 1.5% respectively.

Small caps didn’t show much movement today. Ukraine focused gas producer, Regal Petroleum (AIM: RPT) was one of the top performers among the junior companies with a 3% climb.

Disclosure: The author holds no positions in the company