Commodity Corner: Oil Falls on Weak Economic Data

Oil prices fell below the $100-mark Thursday on weak economic reports.

Front-month crude lost $1.66, settling at $98.44 a barrel Thursday. At its quarterly meeting, the International Energy Agency (IEA) urged oil producers to increase supply. The agency, which acts as a watchdog for 28 industrialized nations, claimed that the high oil prices are hindering global economic recovery. Additionally, the Conference Board reported an unexpected decline in April's index of U.S. leading economic indicators. This marks the first decline in nearly a year.

Other U.S. economic data showed a decrease in home sales for the month of April while Mid-Atlantic manufacturing activity barely grew in May.

Although the U.S. Department of Labor announced a decrease in unemployment filings for the second straight week, traders were unable to get past the bigger picture. Oil prices bottomed out at $98.16 Thursday.

June natural gas futures plummeted to their lowest in nearly six weeks. Prices for natural gas settled 10.4 cents lower at $4.09 per thousand cubic feet. The 2.5 percent-drop came after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that inventories grew by 92 billion cubic feet for the week ended May 13, almost 11 percent lower than the previous year. As the seasonal maintenance for nuclear power plants nears its end this month, some analysts predict the size of gas inventory builds may increase over the next few weeks.

The intraday range for natural gas was $4.09 to $4.20 Thursday.

RBOB gasoline prices fell by 2.95 cents Thursday. Prices traded within $2.91 to $3.00, before settling at $2.93 a gallon.