By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Apr. 19 -- US refined products futures prices closed lower in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday.
Traders said the market still remains concerned about US gasoline supply going into the peak summer season, tensions in Saudi Arabia, and unrest in Iraq. All these factors are expected to help keep prices high.
Recognizing expected robust pricing for both crude oil and natural gas, Fitch Ratings of Chicago noted market perceptions that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the Saudis will maintain a restrained supply policy and heightened geopolitical concerns, particularly in Iraq and Venezuela.
These perceptions are expected to keep crude oil at more than $30/bbl for US light, sweet crudes, at least for the near term, analysts noted in the latest Fitch Ratings' Oil & Gas Insights.
While natural gas inventories are up over last year, Fitch believes prices will remain between $4-6/Mcf for the next few years, based on declining US sequential production.
The May contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes gained 17¢ to $37.74/bbl Friday on NYMEX, and the June position lost 11¢ to $36.99/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., rose by 68¢ to $37.73/bbl.
Gasoline for May delivery dipped by 0.77¢ to $1.1711/gal Friday on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month slipped by 0.52¢ to 96.03/gal.
The May natural gas contract declined by 12.4¢ to $5.61/Mcf on NYMEX, "pressured by a softer physical market and moderate weekend weather forecasts that promised to further depress heating demand" said analysts Monday at Enerfax Daily.
Friday's close fell "below the 40-day moving average signals that a top has been posted," Enerfax said. "If May extends last week's decline, a test of the Mar. 25 reaction low crossing at $5.34 is possible later this month," analysts said.
In London, the May contract for North Sea Brent crude expired on the International Petroleum Exchange. The June contract lost 18¢ to $33.64/bbl. Gas oil for May delivery lost $1.75 to $294/tonne. However, the May natural gas contract rose by 10¢ to the equivalent of $3.66/Mcf on IPE.
The average price for the OPEC basket of seven benchmark crudes gained 31¢ to $32.85/bbl Friday.