MARKET WATCH: Energy prices dwindle in mixed markets

Energy prices generally continued to dwindle in lackluster markets Aug. 13, with front-month crude down 0.2% in the New York market on disappointing gross domestic products reports from Greece and Japan. Natural gas futures fell 1.5% on cooler weather forecasts.

Markets improved modestly in early trading Aug. 15 on better-than-expected economic data from the US and Germany. The Department of Commerce reported US retail sales inched up 0.8% in July, the sharpest increase since February. Germany, Europe's biggest economy, registered 0.3% GDP growth in the second quarter.

However, Eurostat—Europe’s statistics agency—said overall the economies the 17 member nations of the Euro-zone and of the 27 countries in the European Union declined 0.2% in the second quarter following a flat first quarter. Most analysts agree the European financial crisis is far from over.

Meanwhile, many China-based companies that a few years ago were eager to list their stocks on Wall Street are now buying back their US-traded shares and exiting US exchanges. The Associated Press quoted a Chinese business magazine’s report a Chinese state bank provided $1 billion in loans to help companies move their foreign listings to domestic exchanges. Chinese companies complain of the cost of complying with US financial reporting requirements, low-valued shares in US exchanges they claim do not reflect the financial strength of their firms, and a conflict between the two governments over whether US regulators can oversee China-based auditors.

Energy prices

The September contract for benchmark US sweet, light crudes dipped 14¢ to $92.73/bbl Aug. 13 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The October contract slipped 12¢ to $93.03/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was down 14¢ to $92.73/bbl.

Heating oil for September delivery decreased 0.22¢ but closed essentially unchanged at a rounded $3.02/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated stock for oxygenate blending for the same month declined 1.32¢ to $2.99/gal.

The September natural gas contract dropped 4.1¢ to $2.73/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., fell 5.3¢ to $2.78/MMbtu.

In London, the September IPE contract for North Sea Brent increased 65¢ to $113.60/bbl. The new front-month September gas oil contract gained $2.25 to $957.25/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes rose 57¢ to $109.07/bbl. OPEC’s Vienna office will be closed Aug. 15.

Contact Sam Fletcher at

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