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Booming Oil Boosts 0SE

Higher oil prices pushed the Oslo Stock Exchange in a positive direction in March, and had a particularly beneficial effect on offshore shares.

The substantial gains by the majority of offshore shares pushed the Shipping Index, which contains both shipping and offshore shares, up 11.7 percent. The All Share Index, by comparison, rose by 6.9 percent during the month.

The increase by both indices of almost 12 percent during first quarter, promoted the Oslo Stock Exchange to the second- best performing European bourse so far this year.

The background for this success was the performance of North Sea oil which ended the month at around $14.5, up $3.5 since the end of February, providing the climate for a drop in market rates and for the Norwegian krone to strengthen.

Of the Main List offshore shares, TGS Nopec enjoyed the best performance with a 60.4 percent increase, recovering some ground after recent negative price movements. Stolt Comex Seaway and Smedvig also performed well rising 55.8 percent and 44.2 percent respectively. Navis, an SMB-listed company, was one of the worst performing stocks after two months, but rose 77.1 percent in March ending the first quarter about even for the year.

Nortrans Offshore ended the month at the other end of the scale with a fall of 16.7 percent in its share price. Havila Supply and Awilco A were the only other two offshore shares to end the period with a fall.

Among shipping shares Frontline were again on top of the losers' list falling 21.4 percent during the period. FRO's performance is still positive this year. The SMB-listed Team Shipping fell 13 percent, while Western Bulk Shipping dropped 11.1 percent.

Bona Shipholding led all shipping shares in March with a 64.1 percent rise. The rise resulted from the company's announcement on March 29 of its plans to merge with Northwest Maritime Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Teekay Shipping Corporation.




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