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Suspicions confirmed, OPEC has little spare capacity.

Ron Patterson

Oil hits new highs on Yukos woes
Worries over the financial crisis at Russian oil giant Yukos have seen the price of oil hit new highs.

Brent crude surged to $39.25 a barrel in late afternoon trade, its highest level in 14 years, as bailiffs ordered Yukos to stop sales. In the US, light crude jumped to $43.05 - 60 cents above June's 21 year high.

The fresh surge followed news that Yukos, which pumps 20% of Russia's output, had been ordered to stop production by bailiffs.

Russia is the world's second biggest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. According to news agencies, the Russian justice ministry has told Yukos to stop selling property - an effective ban on oil sales.

Little spare capacity
If Yukos has to halt production, up to 1.7 million barrels a day could be affected.

Production from the Opec cartel of oil-producing countries is already at its highest level since 1979, to meet huge consumption growth in China and the US.

It is pressing ahead with a renewed increase in capacity in August. But Venezuela's oil minister said on Tuesday that Opec had little spare capacity to help lower high oil prices.

"A cut is not foreseen, and most of the countries are near their production limits," Rafael Ramirez told Reuters news agency.

The gains in prices came despite figures from the US Energy Information Agency, which showed stockpiles building back to average levels.

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