Commodity Corner: Oil Declines on EU, Japan Crises

Crude oil for May delivery declined by 20 cents Friday as traders viewed events in Europe and Japan with apprehension.

Oil settled at $105.40 a barrel amid fears of declining oil demand arising from the European debt crisis. Massive public debt problems have plagued Greece, Ireland, and other countries in the European Union over the past year, and Portugal is believed to be the next country to require a bailout from the EU's central bank.

Also keeping the oil futures price in check Friday was a report by Japan's nuclear regulator that a reactor core at the earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant may be cracked. Such a breach could facilitate a radiation leak that would contaminate the surrounding area. Giving investors pause was the prospect of a delay in Japan's pending reconstruction effort and its ability to stifle oil demand growth there. The May oil futures contract traded within a range from $104.50 to $105.95. Since Monday, it has risen 2.2 percent.

Natural gas for April delivery has rallied for much of the week, thanks to wintry conditions throughout the Upper Midwest and Northeast on this first week of spring. The April contract gained 16 cents Friday to settle at $4.40 per thousand cubic feet because forecast models anticipate more below-normal temperatures into next week for portions of the country's northern tier.

April natural gas fluctuated from $4.22 to $4.43 Friday. For the week, natural gas is up 5.8 percent.

Gasoline futures ended the day unchanged at $3.04 a gallon. April gasoline peaked at $3.06 and bottomed out at $3.035. Friday's settlement price was 1.4 percent higher than Monday's.