Thanks to ongoing air strikes against Libya by U.S. and allied forces, coupled with Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel and unrest elsewhere in the region, the WTI crude oil benchmark price settled at its highest level since September 2008.
Oil for May delivery surged to $106.34 a barrel Wednesday before settling at $105.75, representing a 78-cent gain for the day. Crude bottomed out at $104.97 during the midweek session.
Also contributing to bullish sentiment for crude oil was a U.S. Energy Department report showing a sharp drop in U.S. gasoline inventories last week. According to the Energy Information Administration, the gasoline draw for the week ending March 18 was 5.32 million barrels—well above analysts' expectations. The latest gasoline inventory level—219.7 million barrels—is below the five-year average for that statistic as well as the year-on-year figure.
April gasoline gained two cents to settle at $3.02 a gallon after fluctuating from $2.997 to $3.035.
As the Upper Midwest and Northeast dealt with falling snow Wednesday, natural gas futures continued to rise. April natural gas increased 8.5 cents to settle at $4.335 per thousand cubic feet.
Natural gas traded within a range from $4.25 to $4.35.
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