Crude Buoyed by Weak Dollar, Positive Manufacturing Data

In a bout of post-weekend short-covering, crude futures edged back into positive territory on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday led by encouraging domestic manufacturing data and a weaker dollar.

As the U.S. currency lost ground against the euro today, its denominated price of light, sweet crude oil for March delivery gained more than $1.50 from last week's lower price tag to settle at $74.43 a barrel.

Likewise, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub had a positive settlement on today's NYMEX, ultimately posting a 30-cent gain to close at $5.434 per thousand cubic feet.

The Institute for Supply Management's better-than-anticipated index reading for the U.S. manufacturing sector coupled with increased consumer spending for the month of January helped drive a rally in both the equities and commodities markets.

Additionally, Wall Street was encouraged by Exxon Mobil Corp.'s earnings report, which beat out analysts' expectations. The world's largest publicly traded oil and gas company, ExxonMobil posted upstream earnings of $5,780 million, up $146 million from the fourth quarter of 2008.

"Oil prices were starting to lose momentum, and coming in this week, without the dollar continuing to rebound and with better-than-expected manufacturing numbers, the market took that as a sign that things may be turning around," said analyst Gene McGillian at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

On Friday, the oil price exited the month of January down more than 8% from December 2008.

He continued, "I think that the market is showing strong resistance near $74-$75, and for the price to get boosted above that, we'll need to see another round of unexpected economic data."