Market watch, Feb. 7

Energy futures prices closed mixed in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday. The March contract for light, sweet crude lost 20� to rest at $30.35/bbl, while the April contract fell 12� to $29.75.


HOUSTON, Feb. 7�Energy futures prices closed mixed in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday.

The March contract for light, sweet crude lost 20� to rest at $30.35/bbl, while the April contract fell 12� to $29.75.

Refined petroleum products ended mixed, with March home heating oil losing 0.19� to finish at 80.92�/gal, while unleaded gasoline for the same month advanced by 0.12� to settle at 88.70�/gal.

NYMEX natural gas for March delivery added 5.8� to end at $5.76/Mcf.

Expectations of a bearish domestic inventory report dominated the trading session.

Gasoline, however, bucked the trend because of a strong performance in the cash market.

After the end of the session, the American Petroleum Institute released its weekly stock data, which confirmed the expectations of traders.

According to the report, the nation's crude inventories increased by 3.04 million bbl during the previous week. Product inventories, however, declined.

Distillates, which include home heating oil, showed a negligible decline of 157,000 bbl, while gasoline stocks declined by 3.16 million bbl.

In after-hours electronic access trading in New York, the March contract for light, sweet crude was fetching $30.24/bbl, and the April position was $29.70/bbl, both down from the NYMEX close.

Meanwhile, in London Tuesday, North Sea Brent crude oil futures closed firmer on the International Petroleum Exchange.

Brokers said the market was predicting a rise of around 2 million bbl in US crude oil stocks to be reported by the API.

This, they said, was probably a necessary rise if gasoline production was to be increased sufficiently ahead of the summer season of peak demand.

However, with API reporting a rise of over 3 million bbl in US crude stocks, a fall in prices was now expected.

Prices have eased from the over-inflated highs seen recently, mostly due to a needed technical correction, but also on comments from Saudi Arabian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali I. Naimi, who has dismissed the prospect of another Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries output cut in the near future.

But some brokers still expected OPEC to at least give the matter serious consideration at its March meeting because other members remained in favor of a cut.

On Tuesday, IPE March Brent futures settled at $28.70/bbl, up by 25� from the previous close. The day's high was $29.89 and the low $28.25. Also on the IPE, the March natural gas contract settled at the equivalent of $3.63/Mcf, up 4�.

The OPEC basket of seven crudes stood at $26.37/bbl Tuesday, compared with $26.79 the previous day.

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