Energy Prices Point Down on Recovery Concerns

Just as quickly as NYMEX crude futures rebounded to $80 yesterday, lackluster U.S. employment and durable goods data knocked the price per barrel back down to nearly $78 on Thursday as concerns resurfaced over the pace of the economic recovery.

Finding safe haven in the U.S. currency today, traders steered clear of the risky energy commodity, and the price of light, sweet crude for April delivery ultimately shed more than 2% of yesterday's gains to settle at $78.17 a barrel.

Also moving back into negative territory with a new front-month contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub for April posted a loss to $4.77 Mcf.

Today, earlier news of a potential downgrade in Greece's sovereign debt rating weighed on the broader financial markets. Equities on Wall Street lost ground after futures moved to the upside yesterday, with the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P indexes closing down for the session. Additionally, the euro fell to a nine-month low against the dollar as markets continued to worry over other euro zone countries' fiscal health alongside Greece's debt woes.

On the domestic front, both an unexpected drop in demand for U.S. manufactured goods in January and a rise in the number of U.S. workers filing initial claims for jobless benefits last week did not bode well for optimistic perceptions of a speedy economic recovery.

Circling back to the oil complex, gasoline futures traded to a slightly lower price on Thursday, but kept above $2 a gallon. Prices rallied yesterday on bullish gasoline data out of the EIA spotlighting a draw in supplies by 900,000 barrels to 231.2 million barrels.