Crude Oil Squeezes Out Gain as S&P 500 Forges Higher

NEW YORK--Oil futures eked out a gain Monday, rebounding from earlier losses, as equities posted fresh highs on the day.

Light, sweet crude for April delivery settled 11 cents, or 0.1%, higher at $92.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange settled 63 cents, or 0.6%, lower at $110.22 a barrel.

Crude oil often follows the equities market, which traders turn to as a barometer for overall economic sentiment, and appeared to pull oil prices out of negative territory in afternoon trading.

Although the relationship between the two markets hasn't been as strong in recent weeks, "there's a certain degree of risk-on," said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho. "It's hard to cream crude when equities are posting all-time highs."

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was recently 0.3% higher, at 1555.72. Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted record highs.

Nymex crude was lower earlier in the session after data on Chinese industrial production and retail sales came in below expectations, raising concerns about oil demand in the world's No. 2 oil consumer.

Elevated stockpiles and production in the U.S. and slack demand there have also weighed on oil prices. U.S. oil inventories are up nearly 6% this year and are well above five-year average levels. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expect an additional build of 2.4 million barrels in the Energy Information Administration's weekly survey due Wednesday.

"In the big picture, we're still looking for a build," said Carl Larry, president of the oil-trading advisory firm Oil Outlooks & Opinions.

Brent crude in particular has posted steep losses in recent sessions, as a key North Sea pipeline has resumed operations, restoring supply of the European benchmark.

Several analysts say oil prices have found a floor near $90 a barrel. Two key technical indicators, the 100-day moving average and the 200-day moving average, are both around $90 a barrel and have served as important thresholds.

Front-month April reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 5.11 cents, or 1.6%, lower at $3.1524 a gallon. April heating oil settled 0.58 cent, or 0.2%, lower at $2.9691 a gallon.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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Brent Crude Oil : $50.47/BBL 0.98%
Light Crude Oil : $49.72/BBL 1.09%
Natural Gas : $2.76/MMBtu 1.09%
Updated in last 24 hours