Oil Rises above $47

Oil prices rose above $47 a barrel Monday on evidence that OPEC production cutbacks were taking hold and news of more unrest in oil-rich Nigeria.

A dispute between Ukraine and Russia over gas imports and Israel's ground offensive in Gaza also kept tensions high, although analysts were split over how much the conflict in the Middle East is affecting markets.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery rose $1.15 to $47.49 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Europe. The contract rose Friday $1.74 to settle at $46.34.

Analysts at JBC Energy said in a research note that prices were supported by "increasing evidence that OPEC is adhering to its agreed production cuts and the announcement of the US government to add more oil into its strategic reserves."

Prices were also buoyed by the "latest news from Nigeria that saboteurs had attacked and partly destroyed part of a pipeline," the analysts said.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline futures rose nearly 4 cents to $1.15 a gallon. Heating oil gained close to 3 pennies to $1.48 a gallon while natural gas for February delivery was flat at $5.97 per 1,000 cubic feet..

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Japanese Stock

Japanese stocks opened the year stronger, with the benchmark index jumping to a 2-month high Monday, lifted by optimism over a U.S. economic stimulus plan. Friday's rally on Wall Street also buoyed confidence.

In a shortened half-day session, the Nikkei 225 stock average gained 183.56 points, or 2.1 percent, to 9,043.12, its first finish above the 9,000-point line since Nov. 10.

At the Tokyo Stock Exchange, young female employees dressed in traditional Japanese kimonos joined its New Year ceremony, adding some festive cheer after the Nikkei index plummeted a staggering 42 percent last year, its steepest one-year drop ever.

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