Commodity Corner: NYMEX Oil Settles Lower

Although anti-government protests throughout the Middle East and North Africa appear to be intensifying, light sweet crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 77 cents lower Monday.

March crude ended the day at $84.81 a barrel as strife appeared to escalate in countries such as Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, and Iran. Moreover, economic activity in Egypt has not returned to normal after Friday's resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Members of public employee unions are striking to demand better pay and working conditions from the country's new military-led government.

The abundant supply of oil at the Cushing, Okla., NYMEX trading hub has kept U.S. prices from skyrocketing. However, the unrest has had a more profound effect on the Brent contract. The oil benchmark for Europe and Asia at the end of Monday's trading exceeded the NYMEX price by more than $18.00.

The March NYMEX contract traded within a range from $85.13 to $86.52.

Sensing sub-$4.00 natural gas as a buying opportunity, investors gave March natural gas a slight lift Monday. The front-month gas contract edged upward by 1.5 cents to end the day at $3.925 per thousand cubic feet.

Natural gas peaked at $3.95 and bottomed out at $3.86 during the day's trading.

Gasoline for March delivery gained a nickel to settle at $2.52 a gallon. It fluctuated from $2.48 to $2.55.