Market Watch, May 17

Futures contracts for light sweet crude pulled back from the $30/bbl mark in mixed trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday. But in London, North Sea Brent crude climbed to a 2-month high on a mix of technical and follow-through buying.


Futures contracts for light sweet crude pulled back from the $30/bbl mark in mixed trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday. The June contract for crude dipped 19� to $29.73/bbl, while the July contract was down 10� to $29.63/bbl.

But in London, North Sea Brent crude climbed to a 2-month high on a mix of technical and follow-through buying�up 45� to $28.78/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange.

Profit-taking activity led to a general weakening on the NYMEX. While crude futures prices had risen Monday following statements by OPEC officials that they don't favor another increase in production at the June ministerial meeting in Vienna, traders Tuesday listened to rumors that a production hike may be imminent.

In London, IPE brokers said the market was both technically and fundamentally firm. Although pressure is building for another production increase, they said, signs indicate it�s unlikely. On the Singapore Exchange, North Sea Brent also moved up 15� to $28.20/bbl Tuesday in the wake of Monday's gains on the NYMEX and IPE. Traders there said prices were moving into higher, uneasy ground on largely speculative support.

"We would prefer to cool prices down within the next week and a correction is widely expected soon," said a Japanese trading house source.

OPEC's basket price for seven crudes slipped to $27.97/bbl from $28.14/bbl previously.

NYMEX trade of refined petroleum products also was mixed Tuesday, with the June contract for home heating oil losing 0.41� to 76.84�/gal.

However, supply concerns boosted the June contract for unleaded gasoline by 5.2� to close at 98.31�/gal. That was triggered by the shutdown of a 55,000 b/d catalytic cracking unit in New Jersey that had just been restarted the previous day, officials said.

With the approach of the peak summer driving season, low gasoline stocks are making traders nervous. The Nymex June contract for natural gas gained 5.2� to $3.45/Mcf.

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