Commodity Corner: Oil Crosses Century Mark
Light sweet crude oil for September delivery peaked at $100.19 a barrel Friday, buoyed by news of a draft bailout plan for Greece and other debt-laden EU countries as well as optimism that the U.S. will raise its debt ceiling by August 2.
The WTI ultimately settled at $99.87, representing a 74-cent gain from Thursday. The Brent futures contract, meanwhile, gained $1.16 to end the day at $118.67 a barrel.
On Thursday, eurozone leaders emerged from a meeting in Brussels to unveil a preliminary debt restructuring plan for Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and perhaps other EU countries facing crushing sovereign debts—namely, Spain and Italy. Under the new plan, the countries will have access to European Financial Stability Facility loans at lower interest rates and will have more time—15 years or more—to repay them.
Also boosting crude oil Friday was optimism that the Obama Administration and lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House will be able to reach a deal on raising the U.S. debt ceiling from its current $14.3 trillion level. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has warned that the government could default on its debt obligations beginning August 2 if it does not obtain authority to take on more debt above the current borrowing limit. The Senate did vote Friday to table a House-passed "Cut, Cap, Balance" bill. The bill, which President Obama opposes, would require actual spending cuts in the Fiscal 2012 federal budget, implement a statutory spending cap, and advance a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The WTI bottomed out at $98.43 during Friday's session while Brent futures fluctuated from $117.59 to $118.78.
The eastern half of the U.S. has been under a so-called heat dome of sizzling temperatures for much of the past week, stoking demand for gas-fired electricity to power air conditioners and fans. The dome is expected to "deflate" somewhat this weekend, and the relatively mild forecast help natural gas futures remain largely unchanged Friday. Natural gas for August delivery gained 0.4 cent to end the day at $4.40 per thousand cubic feet Friday.
Also keeping gas futures in check was a U.S. Energy Information Administration report Thursday showing that working natural gas in storage rose to 2.67 trillion cubic feet as of July 15. The latest figures represents a 60-Bcf net build from the previous week, which fell within analysts' expectations. A Platts survey of analysts had projected a build for the period ranging from 58 to 62 Bcf.
Front-month natural gas traded within a range from $4.37 to $4.47 Friday.
Gasoline for August delivery gained three cents to settle at $3.13 a gallon. The futures price fluctuated from $3.10 to $3.14.