Crude futures advanced 0.8 percent Tuesday on stronger equities and doubts on whether Libyan rebels can resume crude exports within a week.
Tuesday's stock market rally helped oil prices snap out of a 3-day slump, settling at $104.79 a barrel. The 81-cent gain came in anticipation of increased oil demand in the U.S. As the first quarter for 2011 nears close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index both gained 0.7 percent in afternoon trading.
Earlier Tuesday, prices fell to $102.70 a barrel on Libyan rebels' promise to swiftly return crude exports to markets. Traders remain weary as to how quickly and capable Libya will be in resuming exports, along with the remaining uncertainty in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, natural gas futures for April delivery fell by 3.1 percent to settle at $4.24 per thousand cubic feet. The April contract expired at Tuesday's settlement, which traders seized as an opportunity to cash out previous profits.
The Energy Information Administration reported 66.67 billion cubic feet a day, 0.5 percent lower, for U.S. natural gas production in the lower 48 states. The drop was still 6.8 percent higher from year-earlier levels.
Natural gas prices fluctuated between $4.195 and $4.37 Tuesday.
Front-month gasoline ended up Tuesday, settling at a session high of $3.05 a gallon. The session bottomed out at $3.01 a gallon.
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