Oil prices ebbed and flowed this week on the shifting perceptions of the Persian Gulf crisis, but exhausted traders went home Friday with the market ending just about where it started.
"The market fluctuated on news, semi-news and rumors of news about the Gulf," said John Geraghty at B & C Trading in New York.In London, one trader said the oil market was "nervous and headline-driven."
The December oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended Friday with a loss of $1.24 at $33.01 a barrel from Thursday's close.
For the week, crude oil was down 78 cents, as it continued its retreat from a record high of $41.15 set Oct. 10.
The week saw prices plunge a record $5.41 a barrel on Monday and soar $3.17 on Thursday.
Unleaded gasoline for November delivery ended down 2.13 cents at 91.47 cents a gallon, and for the week it was up 3.56 cents. Heating oil for delivery next month closed 3.42 cents down at 88.25 cents a gallon, and eked out a gain of 0.15 cents for the week.
Oil began the week with a record loss, tumbling below $30 a barrel to six-week lows on expectations that a peaceful settlement in the Persian Gulf was possible.
The peace talk stemmed from news that Saudi Arabia's defense minister said that Kuwait could make territorial concessions if Iraq, which invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, withdrew its forces unconditionally.
A comment by former British Prime Minister Edward Heath that Iraqi president Saddam hoped for a diplomatic solution also weighed on oil.
The weakness did not last, with oil rebounding around midweek when the war drums were again heard.
Saudi Arabian King Fahd said the kingdom's stand on Iraq's occupation of Kuwait was unchanged, stamping hard on reports that compromise is in the air in the Gulf crisis.
Expectations of military operations lifted prices further, fed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's comments that the United States has not ruled out force to evict Iraq from Kuwait. Cheney also said that deployment of 100,000 more troops on top of the 210,000 already there, was conceivable.