Commodity Corner: Crude Tumbles on S&P Debt Outlook

Front-month crude futures plummeted Monday after Standard & Poor (S&P) changed its outlook for U.S. debt from stable to negative. The shift in outlook has increased concerns of the U.S. economy's stability and cuts in government spending.

Oil prices fell by $2.54 Monday, settling at $107.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). Prices fluctuated between $106.54 and $109.44. The S&P move came on the possibility that policymakers may not reach an agreement on how to address long-term fiscal pressures.

Over the weekend, China's central bank announced it would increase bank reserve requirements. In its fourth attempt this year, China hopes to control inflation and curb energy demand. Following the U.S., China is the world's second largest energy consumer.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia's Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said Sunday that the kingdom has reduced oil production by 800,000 barrels due to lack of demand. Crude output was 8.3 million barrels a day last month, compared to February's 9.1 million barrels a day. Naimi anticipates an increase in April production.

On Monday, the greenback rose against the euro and other currencies further pressuring prices. The euro fell on concerns that Greece will have to restructure its debt. A stronger dollar makes oil more expensive, less attractive to foreign buyers.

May natural gas prices fell for a second day Monday, settling nearly seven cents lower at $4.14 per thousand cubic feet. Analysts do not foresee any near-term pressure increasing prices due to near-average storage and below-average prices. The intraday range for natural gas was $4.087 to $4.27 per thousand cubic feet.

Likewise, gasoline futures fell 1.1 percent, peaking at $3.29 before bottoming out at $3.23. Gasoline priced ended Monday's trading session at $3.25 a gallon.