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Energy stocks were climbing shortly before Thursday's opening bell. West Texas Intermediate crude oil for August delivery was ahead 29 cents to $74.43 per barrel in New York while the global benchmark Brent crude August contract was declining 20 cents to $78.04 per barrel. August natural gas futures were 1 cent higher at $2.88 per 1 million BTU. Among energy-related ETFs, United States Oil was climbing almost 0.7% while United States Natural Gas was falling over 0.4%.

Among energy stocks moving on news:

+ Petrobras ( PBR ) was advancing in Thursday's pre-market, climbing almost 3%, after said a federal court in Rio de Janeiro ordered the Brazilian state-owned energy major to provisionally withhold some payments to SBM Offshore to ensure the Dutch marine engineering company pays any potential penalties it receives in a corruption case. SBM has been accused of paying bribes to government officials to secure contracts with Petrobras and the Dutch company has said it could not guarantee it would reach a favorable settlement. Petrobras also said it has inked an agreement with the parent company of PetroChina ( PTR ) that includes completing the Comperj Refinery near Rio and a participation in the offshore Marlim Cluster oil field in Brazil.

In other sector news

+ Aegean Marine Petroleum Network ( ANW ) was soaring in early trade, Thursday rising over 141% after it announced a memorandum of understanding with Mercuria Energy Group Ltd for up to $1 billion of debt facility.

+ Equinor ( EQNR ) was gaining in Thursday's early session, rising over 2%, after the Norwegian energy major until recently known as Statoil Wednesday said it has agreed to pay $379 million for a 10% ownership stake in Barra Energia and the exploration and production company's BM-S-8 licence in the Santos basin. The deal is intended to align the interests of Equinor and its partners in the Brazilian exploration block and the adjacent Carcar North block, which are estimated to contain a combined 2 billion recoverable barrels of oil equivalent.

= Patterson-UTI Energy ( PTEN ) was steady ahead of Thursday's opening bell after oilfield-services company said it operated an average of 178 drilling rigs during June, up from 161 during June 2017. For the three months through June 30, Patterson-UTI had 176 rigs working in the field compared with 146 during the same quarter last year.

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