Crude futures rallied above $82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Wednesday, spurred by an encouraging rise in demand for oil products, as well as OPEC's decision to leave output quotas unchanged.
Making a run for record highs this year, the price of light, sweet crude oil for April delivery added more than $1 to yesterday's final price tag to settle in bullish territory at $82.93 a barrel.
NYMEX gasoline futures also traded higher during Wednesday's session, closing at $2.31 a gallon on steadily improving supply-and-demand fundamentals.
Trading against the oil complex's bullish momentum, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub tumbled down to $4.30 Mcf.
Market, OPEC Optimistic about Demand Recovery
Today, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a draw in gasoline and heating oil stocks by 1.7 million barrels and 1.4 million barrels, respectively. The EIA's data indicated that U.S. demand for oil products in the week leading to Mar. 12 was up by 3.5% from a year ago.
Domestic crude oil stocks, however, rose by 1.1 million barrels last week, as spotlighted by today's inventory report.
On the international front, OPEC concluded its meeting in Vienna Wednesday with an optimistic view of "good demand, reliable supply and beautiful prices," according to Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi.
Pumping roughly one in every three barrels of oil, OPEC members agreed to maintain official output curbs of 4.2 million barrels per day, a report by Reuters noted.
In recent months, many analysts have underscored a lack of compliance by some of the organization's members, whose oil supplies are increasingly spilling over quotas set in December 2008, when prices collapsed below $40 a barrel.
"Everything is relative -- if there was no demand, there would be no leakage," Reuters quoted Naimi as saying.
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