MARKET WATCHEnergy futures prices plunge in profit taking

March 23, 2005
Energy futures prices plunged Mar. 22 as traders took profits from the recent run up.

Sam Fletcher
Senior Writer

HOUSTON, Mar. 23 -- Energy futures prices plunged Mar. 22 as traders took profits from the recent run up.

Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration reported Mar. 23 that commercial US crude inventories shot up by 4.1 million bbl to 309.3 million bbl in the week ended Mar. 18, the fourth consecutive week of gains above 2 million bbl. However, US gasoline stocks plunged by 4.1 million bbl to 217.3 million bbl. Distillate fuel stocks fell by 2.8 million bbl to 104.5 million bbl. Heating oil accounted for most of the decline in distillates, but diesel was down, too.

Imports of crude into the US increased by 229,000 b/d to nearly 10.3 million b/d during the same week. However, input of crude into US refineries decreased by 150,000 b/d to 15 million b/d, with refineries operating at 90.2% of capacity.

Energy prices
The May contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes plummeted by $1.43 to $56.03/bbl Mar. 22 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the biggest single-day loss for a front-month contract in more than a month. The June contract lost $1.34 to $56.72/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., was down by 58¢ to $56.04/bbl. Heating oil for April delivery declined by 2.69¢ to $1.55/gal. Gasoline for the same month decreased by 2.07¢ to $1.57/gal.

The April natural gas contract lost 7¢ to $7.25/MMbtu on NYMEX, "pressured by a sharp sell off in crude oil prices and moderate weather forecasts for next week, despite cool temperatures this week that helped firm the cash [natural gas spot] market," said analysts at Enerfax Daily.

In London, the May contract for North Sea Brent crude fell by $1.06 to $54.59/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven benchmark crudes lost 73¢ to $51.03/bbl Mar. 22.

Contact Sam Fletcher at [email protected]