The passage of the $819 billion stimulus package by the U.S. House of Representatives gave the stock market a boost, including crude oil.
Prices rose slightly for crude oil because of the step taken by the U.S. Congress toward implementing the stimulus, Xinhua reports.
Usually prices fall when there is an increase in inventories, and the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration announced U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 6.2 million barrels this week. However, at the same time distillate stocks dropped 1 million barrels because of a cold weather spell that drained about 100,000 barrels of oil.
U.S. oil stocks have increased by more than 44 million barrels in the past four months. The largest four-month rise since 1990 is considered to be part of the reason for the drop in oil prices.
Royal Dutch Shell loses profits for the first time in 10 years
Multinational oil company Royal Dutch Shell, like many other major oil companies, posted a 28 percent decrease in its profits for the fourth quarter of 2008.
The drop in fourth-quarter profits is due to the drop in oil prices over the past six months, but record-high oil prices in the first half of 2008 boosted Shell's overall yearly profit to $29 billion, British newspaper the Daily Mail reports.
Shell reports the last quarter profits were $4.5 billion, down from $6 billion the same time in 2007.
But high prices earlier in the year led to $10 billion in profits in the third quarter alone.
Chief Executive Officer Jeroen van der Veer described the fourth-quarter performance as satisfactory, "given the pressure on demand for oil and gas due to a weaker global economy."
Van der Veer suggested the company will try to maintain its 2009 investments at its 2008 level of $32 billion.
New Zealand Oil and Gas will explore in a new offshore area
New Zealand Oil and Gas announced that starting next month it will be looking for oil and natural gas off the coast of south Taranaki region, next to the Kupe field.
The company will spend between $1 million and $2 million to gather seismic data and analyze existing data for the 3,000-square-mile area, the New Zealand Herald reports.
For two years, NZOG will explore and evaluate the fields, and then the firm will make a decision about whether to go forward with drilling.
The company would not disclose any estimates of the potential reserves in the area, but Chief Executive Officer David Salisbury said, "Regional analysis of source zones and the proximity of Kupe indicates that there is a favorable chance for oil or wet gas."
The company has a 15 percent stake in the Kupe gas and oil project, which is scheduled to come on stream later this year.
If the new area did yield positive results for potential development, it would be an estimated five to seven years before it would be developed.
Closing oil prices, Jan. 29, 3 p.m., London
Brent Crude oil: $42.50
West Texas Intermediate crude oil: $41.56
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