NEW YORK — BP shares are closing in on a second straight weekly gain as the oil company gets closer to plugging a blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico.
The shares have gained about 23 percent since hitting a 14-year low of $27.02 on June 25. They rose 55 cents to close at $33.74 on Thursday.
The gains have come as BP has taken steps to reassure business partners in the Middle East and Russia that it remains a viable company. BP also is moving closer to completing two relief wells meant to stem the oil gusher in the Gulf.
How close was the subject of discussion Thursday.
BP managing director Robert Dudley told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that a "perfect case" would have the gushing well capped between July 20 and July 27. But BP spokesmen and government officials later said the well probably won't be finished until mid-August.
One of the relief wells is expected to intercept the blown-out well pipe within 10 days. But National Incident Commander and retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said how much additional time it will take to stop the oil from flowing depended on the state of the well and the weather.
BP shares have recovered roughly $20.4 billion in value in the past seven trading sessions. Still, the shares have lost about 45 percent since the Gulf oil rig explosion on April 20.
The blowout ruptured a subsea well about 40 miles off of Louisiana that has sent between 86 million and 169 million gallons of oil into the sea, threatening the entire Gulf Coast.
BP already has spent more than $3 billion to corral the spill. It has agreed to set aside another $20 billion for damage claims. With costs growing by the millions every day, BP canceled its dividend this year, furthering the frustration for investors.
BP shares have dropped about $85 billion in value since the spill started, prompting lawsuits by shareholders and employees. The suits argue that the company took excessive risks with its offshore wells.
But as BP stock plummeted, analysts argued that investors were overreacting because BP has ample cash flow to handle potential costs of the spill. The stock started rebounding last week. Shares jumped 8.6 percent last week, and this week they're up about 14 percent. Previously, they had declined for nine straight weeks.