MARKET WATCH: Violence in Egypt drives up NYMEX crude prices

Crude oil futures prices ended slightly higher during a volatile trading session on the New York Mercantile Exchange Aug. 14 after the US Energy Information Administration reported crude inventories at their lowest level since Jan. 11, followed by reports of escalating civil unrest in Egypt.

Officials declared a state of emergency in Egypt. Authorities said Aug. 14 that the Suez Canal was operating normally without any disruption to shipments of Middle East oil.

A canal spokesperson told reporters that security was increased. Reports indicated more than 500 people were killed in Egypt.

US Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel urged Egypt to show restraint. Meanwhile, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Bahrain appear to be facing a period of extreme uncertainty and turmoil, making oil traders worldwide uneasy about future crude market directions.

Regarding Egypt’s apparently escalating violence, US President Barack Obama criticized Egypt’s military crackdown, saying the US would cancel a joint military exercise there.

On the US natural gas market, analysts attributed hotter-than-normal temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast for driving up prices in what has been a weak summer for gas demand. Temperatures were expected to remain high for days, and forecasters said tropical storms also might be in the making.

The National Hurricane Center said two tropical cyclones could possibly be forming within the next several days. A low-pressure area around the Cayman Islands was moving toward the Yucatan Peninsula and the southern Gulf of Mexico. A different low-pressure system off Cape Verde also was said to have the potential to become a tropical cyclone.

Energy prices

The September contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes on the New York Mercantile Exchange climbed 2¢ to $106.85/bbl Aug. 14 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. NYMEX crude prices for September swung nearly $1.50/bbl throughout the session. The October contract rose 16¢ to $106.56/bbl.

Heating oil for September delivery edged up 0.07¢ to settle at $3.0478/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated stock for oxygenate blending for the same month rose 4.05¢ to $2.98/gal.

The September natural gas contract increased 5.7¢ to close at $3.342/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., rose 2.5¢ to $3.36/MMbtu.

In London, the September IPE contract for North Sea Brent rose 38¢ to $110.20/bbl, marking its highest closing price since Apr. 2. The September contract for gas oil settled at $926/tonne, down $1.75.

The average price for Aug. 15 for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes was not available.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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