Market watch: Energy prices remain mixed on international markets

Energy futures prices were mixed Tuesday with expiration of the June contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes and concerns over refinery problems in Louisiana. Oil prices weakened as the June contract lost 24¢ to $29.74/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, May 23 -- Energy futures prices were mixed Tuesday with expiration of the June contract for benchmark US crudes and concerns over refinery problems in Louisiana.

Oil prices weakened during the last day of trading of the June contract for US light, sweet crudes on the New York Mercantile Exchange, causing that contract to slip by 24¢ to $29.74/bbl. The July contract also dropped 26¢ to $30/bbl. Prices continued to decline in after-hours electronic trading to $29.88/bbl for July and $29.95/bbl for August, following release of the American Petroleum Institute's weekly inventory report late Tuesday.

API reported US oil and gasoline inventories increased again last week while distillate inventories, including diesel and home heating oil, declined.

However, reports of refinery problems triggered a gain of 0.81¢ to $1.1078/gal for the June contract for unleaded gasoline. Home heating oil for the same month declined by 0.33¢ to 80.89¢/gal on the NYMEX. The June natural gas contract inched up 1¢ to $4.12/Mcf.

In London, the July contract for North Sea Brent crude dipped 6¢ to $29.36/bbl Tuesday on the International Petroleum Exchange.

Oil futures are holding firm above $29/bbl in that market for the moment. However, traders are looking for some bearish indicator to justify a sharp correction to a lower price, brokers said.

The next higher-than-expected increase in US petroleum inventories could trigger a sell-off, they said.

Also on the IPE, the June natural gas contract fell 7.7¢ to the equivalent of $2.95/Mcf.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven crudes was down 14¢ to $27.23/bbl Tuesday.

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