Oil rises as tensions soar in Egypt

Oil prices rose on Friday as heightened tensions in Egypt sparked crude supply concerns, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for March delivery, soared 83 cents to $87.56 per barrel. Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March gained 69 cents to $101.56 on its last trading day.

The rise came after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down on Thursday, delegating some powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman and enraging protesters who have demanded his resignation.

“It’s really due to Mubarak’s speech he gave earlier,” said Ong Yi Ling, investment analyst for Phillip Futures in Singapore. “I think that this has got investors refocusing on the Egyptian crisis,” she told AFP.

Mubarak’s refusal to step down enraged more than 200,000 protesters massed in the central Tahrir Square, who vowed to stage their most spectacular protest yet on Friday, sparking fears of violence in Cairo.

Conflicts in Egypt could disrupt crude supplies passing through the Suez Canal, which provides a link between Europe and Asia and allows ships safer and faster travel between the regions without having to sail around Africa.

While Egypt is not a major crude producer, the canal carries about 2.4 million barrels of crude daily, roughly equal to the output of Iraq or Brazil.