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MARKET WATCH
Crude oil futures rise on gasoline rally, weakening dollar

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Feb. 18 -- Crude oil futures prices rose on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday supported by a rally in gasoline prices and also by a weakening US dollar vs. the euro, analysts said.

Analysts attributed the gasoline rally to worries about inventory levels and to refinery events. BP PLC shut a fluid catalytic cracking unit at its 437,000 b/d Texas City, Tex., refinery Monday. Details about the status of the unit known remained unknown Tuesday.

Valero Energy Corp., San Antonio, said that its 20,000 b/d fluid catalytic cracking unit at its Corpus Christi, Tex., East Plant was shut and restarted Saturday.

The US Energy Information Administration and American Petroleum Institute will release their separate weekly inventory reports on Thursday for the week ended Jan. 13. The reports are being released one day later than normal because Monday was Presidents' Day, a US holiday.

Energy prices
Gasoline led the market when it opened Tuesday after being closed Monday. Gasoline for March delivery rose 1.92¢ to $1.05/gal Tuesday on NYMEX.

Heating oil for March delivery lost 0.24¢ to 94.03¢/gal. The March natural gas contract declined by 21.7¢ to $5.32/Mcf.

Natural gas futures were "undermined by a softer physical market ahead of milder weather expected in the [US] Northeast and Midwest later this week and next week," said analysts Wednesday at Enerfax Daily.

The March contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes gained 63¢ to $35.19/bbl Tuesday on NYMEX, while the April position advanced by 76¢ to $34.86/bbl.

During trading Tuesday, March crude reached $35.25/bbl, which was the highest for prompt crude since Jan. 20 when the prices hit $36.37/bbl, Reuters reported. The Jan. 20 high was the strongest since the start of the US-led war on Iraq, Reuters added.

On the US spot market West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., gained 74¢ to $35.18/bbl Tuesday.

In London, the March contract for North Sea Brent oil rose by 37¢ to $30.69/bbl Tuesday on the International Petroleum Exchange. Gas oil for March delivery rose by $2.50 to $261.25/tonne. However, the March natural gas contract rose by 7¢ to the equivalent of $4.23/Mcf on IPE.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven benchmark crudes rose by 36¢ to $30.98 Tuesday


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