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Oil inches up on storm forecast

NEW YORK -- Oil prices edged higher yesterday, topping the 2007 settlement high reached a day earlier after a report predicted more destructive storms along the Gulf Coast this hurricane season. Natural gas prices also jumped on the news.

Continued tensions between Iran and the West also kept a floor under oil prices, while the market looked to today's weekly inventory reports from the Energy Department.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery inched up 2 cents to settle at $62.93, the highest settlement this year, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose as high as $63.05.

Brent crude for May rose 19 cents to $64.60 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. said yesterday its chief hurricane forecaster expects this hurricane season to produce more powerful storms in the Gulf of Mexico, which could disrupt production of crude oil and natural gas in the area.

Natural gas leaped 24.9 cents to settle at $7.503 per 1,000 cubic feet.

"The market tried to go down all day, but it finally got a little boost from the hurricane forecast," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst at Alaron Trading Corp.