Crude futures plummeted to below $100 a barrel for the first time in more than a week. Light, sweet crude prices settled $2.41 lower Tuesday at $98.78 a barrel.
Prices fell nearly 4 percent as Japan continued efforts to control its nuclear crisis Tuesday. Traders are still trying to determine what effect the Japanese earthquake and tsunami will have on the global oil market.
Meanwhile, fighting continues in the Middle East. Bahrain has declared a state of emergency after having sought Saudi Arabian troops to aid in suppressing anti-government uprisings. Violence rose as the Shi'ite Muslim majority protested against the Sunni-ruled kingdom. In Libya, violence between Gaddhafi loyalists and rebel forces briefly caused prices to recoil from Tuesday's low of $96.71 a barrel.
April gasoline also fell on concerns about the repercussions Japan's strongest earthquake may cause, such as demand for motor fuel. Gasoline futures declined after news broke of a third explosion at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi plant. Front-month gasoline traded between $2.78 and $2.96 before settling at $2.83 a gallon.
Natural gas for April delivery gained 9 cents, settling at $3.92 per thousand cubic feet. The intraday range was $3.80 to $4.00.
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