LONDON -- Oil prices look set to drift sideways until the U.S. presidential election is over, judging by their performance this week. Brent crude on the December contract was down by 0.45% on the week at $108.54 per barrel shortly after U.S. markets opened today, while WTI crude gained slightly, opening higher by 1.1% on the week at $86.55.
U.S. natural gas for December delivery fell through the week and was down by 2.9% at $3.62 per MMBtu when U.S. markets opened today.
Many investors prefer to invest in commodity ETFs, rather than directly in futures, and the United States Oil Fund (NYSE: USO ) was up by 0.95% on the week at $31.93 shortly after U.S. markets opened on Friday. The United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNG ) was down by 3.88%, reflecting the decline in gas prices, and opened at $21.33 this morning.
The nature of oil and gas companies' businesses means that they can succeed or fail regardless of oil prices. This week's risers have all outperformed the price of oil by a big margin this week.
Tullow Oil (LSE: TLW.L )
FTSE 100 member Tullow Oil gained 2.7% today and has gained 14% over the last three months, thanks to continued production growth and its second confirmed oil find in Kenya so far this year. Drilling is still ongoing at the Twiga South-1 well, and Tullow has not yet specified the size of the find, but results are expected later this month, after which Tullow will flow-test its first Kenyan oil discovery, which could trigger further gains.
Ithaca Energy (LSE: IAE.L )
Ithaca Energy has climbed 10.5% to 125 pence this week after gaining two new licenses for North Sea exploration blocks that offer the potential for significant expansion. One block is close to Ithaca's Athena field, which is already in production, while the second of the new blocks is close to Ithaca's Hurricane oil discovery, which the company believes offers similar prospects.
BP (LSE: BP.L )
Oil supermajor BP has gained almost 3% to 445 pence this week after releasing a strong third-quarter update. Underlying replacement-cost profit for the quarter rose by 40% to $5.2 billion, and the company hiked its quarterly dividend by 12.5% to 9 cents a share, providing an additional attraction for yield-hungry income investors. The report also comes just a week after BP confirmed it had agreed to sell its troublesome stake in Russian joint venture TNK-BP to Rosneft in a deal that will leave BP with $12.3 billion in cash and a 19.75% interest in Rosneft.
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