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Oil ends day above $80 a barrel
Gasoline prices rise as storm hits Texas

NEW YORK - Oil prices finished above $80 a barrel for the first time Thursday and gasoline prices rose as refiners reported production problems after Hurricane Humberto hit Texas.

Oil first traded over $80 a barrel on Wednesday after the Energy Department reported declines in crude and gasoline inventories and a drop in refinery activity, but ended the day below that psychologically important mark.

On Thursday, Humberto added to the supply concerns by cutting power to several refineries in the Port Arthur, Texas, area. Another tropical system gaining strength in the Atlantic also supported prices.

Light, sweet crude for October delivery finished at a record $80.09, up 18 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange and above the previous record close of $79.91 set a day earlier.

Despite the gains, oil is still well below inflation-adjusted highs hit in early 1980. Depending on the adjustment, a $38 barrel of oil in 1980 would be worth $96 to $101 or more today.

In addition to closing at a record high, the October oil contract also set an intraday record of $80.20 a barrel on Thursday, 2 cents above the previous trading high set Wednesday.

In London, October Brent crude fell 28 cents to settle at $77.40 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

The shuttered refineries included Valero Energy Corp.'s 325,000 barrel-per-day facility, Total SA's 180,000 barrel-per-day plant and Motiva Enterprises LLC's refinery, which can process 285,000 barrels of oil a day.

Exxon Mobil Corp. said its 350,000 barrel-per-day Beaumont, Texas, refinery suffered a minor production outage but remained up and running.

The outages boosted October gasoline 3.04 cents to settle at $2.0464 a gallon.

Oil's run-up has come despite OPEC's decision on Tuesday to boost output by 500,000 barrels, a move driven in part by concerns that high oil prices are hurting the global economy. Many analysts are perplexed by the high prices, arguing that they have been driven by a flood of speculative buying.