Market watch: Futures prices are mixed as traders await news

Energy futures prices were mixed Monday, as traders awaited the latest news of US inventories, which the American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to report after NYMEX closes trading Tuesday.

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, July 30 -- Energy futures prices were mixed Monday, as traders awaited the latest news of US inventories, which the American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to report after the New York Mercantile Exchange closes trading Tuesday.

If a sizeable fall in US crude stocks is reported as expected, analysts said, it could move forward an otherwise drifting market.

Gasoline futures rose sharply in late trading Monday on NYMEX, and oil prices pushed higher with indications that Venezuela is adhering to production quotas imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. But prices soon drifted downward again.

At the close of trading Monday, the September contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes had inched up 1¢ to $26.55/bbl, while the October contract lost 2¢ to $26.09/bbl on NYMEX. Unleaded gasoline for September delivery gained 0.95¢ to 83.16¢/gal, but heating oil for the same month was down 0.15¢ to 66.6¢/gal.

The expiring August natural gas contract rose 4¢ to $2.98/Mcf, finishing "in the middle of a $2.88-$3.05(/Mcf) trading range it has held for the last couple of weeks," Enerfax Daily reported. "Early in the day, there was a wave of short covering, and commercial traders with expiring long contracts held out until the last half hour and then sold the market off." The September natural gas contract was up 1.4¢ to $2.91/Mcf.

Matthew Warburton at UBS Warburg LLC in New York said Monday that recent tanker tracking estimates indicate production from the 10 active OPEC members (minus Iraq) edged up to 23.6 million b/d of oil in July from 23.2 million b/d in June, "with Iran and Nigeria accounting for all of the increase." However, he said, OPEC production is still below what is estimated will be needed for the second half of this year, "implying a tightening market."

In London, the September contract for North Sea Brent crude lost 3¢ to $25/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. The expiring August natural gas contract gained 2.2¢ to the equivalent of $1.82/Mcf, while the September gas contract was up 1.1¢ to the equivalent of $1.91/Mcf.

The average price for the OPEC basket of seven benchmark crudes lost 9¢ to $24.70/bbl Monday.

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