Market watch: Energy futures rise on fears of Venezuela's strike disrupting supplies

Gasoline energy futures prices led crude oil and refined product prices higher Tuesday upon concerns about possible gasoline supply disruptions in South America because of a general strike in Venezuela.


By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Dec. 4 -- Gasoline energy futures prices led crude oil and refined product prices higher Tuesday upon concerns about possible gasoline supply disruptions in South America because of a general strike in Venezuela.

Traders cited reports that Venezuela gasoline shipments were delayed and that refinery output also may have been cut. The strike entered its third day Wednesday, the day after anti-riot troops fired tear gas into crowds of anti-government demonstrators.

On Wednesday, analysts awaited a market response to the American Petroleum Institute's weekly inventory report that showed a significant build in US crude and product inventories.

"With total crude and product inventories rising by a staggering 12.4 million bbl, week to week, to 687.3 million, last night's API data will not be well received by the market," said Matthew Warburton of UBS Warburg LLC.

"Nonetheless over the near term, we would expect any bearish reaction to the data to be tempered due to peaking seasonal demand and low stock levels globally, as well as the looming deadline for full Iraqi disclosure of its weapons programs and other geopolitical tensions," Warburton said.

The January contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes gained 6¢ to $27.30/bbl Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the February contract was up 13¢ to $27.17/bbl.

The price of unleaded gasoline for December delivery rose by 0.93¢ to 75.32¢/gal.

Heating oil for the same month edged up 0.11¢ to 77.50¢/gal.

The January natural gas contract slipped by 9.4¢ to $4.23/Mcf Tuesday on NYMEX.

In London, the January contract for North Sea Brent oil gained 23¢ to close at $25.85/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. Brent moved briefly to $26.10/bbl Tuesday on news that UN inspectors had entered one of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's palaces.

The January natural gas contract gained 22¢ to the equivalent of $4.07/Mcf on IPE.

The average price for OPEC's basket of seven benchmark crudes gained 37¢ to $26.03/bbl Monday.

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