Chua Baizhen / Reuters | July 4, 2008

Oil took a breather above $145 a barrel on Friday a day after tensions between Iran and Israel prompted traders to stock up on oil ahead of the Independence Day long weekend, sending futures to an all-time peak.

U.S. crude oil inched down 6 cents to $145.23 a barrel by 0613 GMT, off an all-time high of $145.85 hit on Thursday. The contract has risen more than 50 percent this year.

London Brent gained 8 cents to $146.16, near the record $146.69 touched a day ago.

Bullish investors have rushed into crude ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, traditionally the peak U.S. driving period, as they do not want to be caught short should the Iran-Israel row escalate, analysts said.

Heightened tension between Israel and OPEC’s second-biggest producer Iran has put oil prices on the boil over the past two weeks, helping crude smash records five times in the last seven sessions.

“There weren’t many changes in the situation. I think the current market is driven by speculative money, not by fundamentals,” said Takeda Makoto, an analyst at Bansei Securities.

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