MARKET WATCH: Weak economy data slightly affects energy prices

Energy prices changed slightly Apr. 19 despite weaker economic data and rumors of a downgrade of France’s sovereign debt.

The US Department of Labor said the unemployment rate dipped to 8.2% in March from 8.3% in February. Yet employers reported a net addition of only 120,000 jobs, half as many as in each of the previous three months.

DOL said 29 states registered net job gains in March while 20 states reported net declines in jobs. That's down from job gains in 42 states during February. However, 30 states reported lower unemployment rates last month while 8 reported increased unemployment.

Meanwhile, Sudan and South Sudan appear on the brink of war. “What began as a disagreement over oil shipments has escalated into an actual on-the-ground battle over a disputed oil-producing area called Heglig,” said analysts in the Houston office of Raymond James & Associates Inc. “So far, diplomatic efforts to avoid escalation have not been successful, and neither side is backing down. Even without all-out war, however, South Sudan's 350,000 b/d of oil production (0.4% of global supply) has been shut down for more than 2 months. While this doesn't change our view that the global oil market will become increasingly oversupplied as the year progresses, it's a useful reminder that geopolitical risk in the oil market is not limited to the Mideast region.”

Energy prices

The May and June contracts for benchmark US light, sweet crudes gained 40¢ each to $102.27/bbl and 102.72/bbl, respectively, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was up 40¢ to $102.27/bbl. Heating oil for May delivery inched up 0.69¢ to $3.13/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated stock for oxygenate blending for the same month, however, fell 4.86¢ to $3.15/gal.

The May natural gas contract dropped 4.4¢ to $1.91/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., declined 2.8¢ to $1.84/MMbtu.

In London, the June IPE contract for North Sea Brent rose 3¢ to $118/bbl. Gas oil for May climbed $10.50 to $996/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes was up 52¢ to $116.25/bbl.

Contact Sam Fletcher at samf@ogjonline.com.

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