MARKET WATCH: Oil futures gain on positive US economy, delays in Libya oil exports

Oil futures on the New York market gained slightly in Apr. 21 trading, which analysts attributed to positive indicators for the US economy and news that Libya would not resume its exports as fast as had been suggested.

The US Conference Board said Apr. 21 that its index of leading economic indicators increased 0.8% in March, higher than the 0.7% expectation and better than February’s 0.5% rise. The board attributed the gain to more people returning to work and driving to their jobs.

Libya government officials said technical problems delayed the reopening of oil exports from the port of Zueitina. Previously, the government in Tripoli and rebels agreed to end an 8-month blockade of four oil ports.

Under that plan, the Hariga and Zueitina ports had been expected to open immediately while the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider terminals were to resume oil exports within weeks.

However, only Hariga port is restarting because of technical problems and damage at Zueitina as a result of being closed for so long, Justice Minister Salah al-Merghani said during an Apr. 20 news conference from the eastern city of Benghazi.

He declined to suggest a schedule for resumption of oil exports from Zueitina, Ras Lanuf, and Es Sider ports.

Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine conflict appears to have stabilized somewhat for now because the US, European Union, and Russia jointly signed an agreement before the long Easter weekend.

On Apr. 20, rebels engaged Ukraine troops in a standoff after occupying government buildings. Ukraine’s interior ministry said one person died and three others were wounded.

Energy prices

The New York Mercantile Exchange May crude oil contract price edged up 7¢ to close at $104.37/bbl on Apr. 21. Markets were closed Apr. 18 for the Good Friday holiday. The June contract gained 28¢ to $103.65/bbl.

The May natural gas contract declined 4¢ to a rounded $4.70/MMbtu. Gas prices were on the rise in early Apr. 22 trading because weather forecasts called for cooler-than-normal temperatures through early May, potentially extending US heating demand.

Heating oil for May delivery was virtually unchanged at a rounded $3.01/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for May delivery increased 3.2¢ to a rounded $3.09/gal.

In London the June ICE contract for Brent crude delivery was up 42¢, closing at $109.95/bbl. The July contract increased 43¢ to close at $109.59/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for May dropped 25¢ to $927.50/tonne.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said for its basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $105.34/bbl on Apr. 21, down 19¢ from the Apr. 17 price. OPEC’s reporting office was closed so no price was available on Apr. 18.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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