Oil Stays Strong above $81; Natural Gas Retreats

Spurred by a weaker greenback against the euro and light-volume trade, crude oil futures soared above $81 a barrel for a second consecutive session on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

After rallying to an eight-week high Monday, the price of light, sweet crude oil for April delivery settled down from an intra-day high above $82 to a still-bullish final price tag of $81.87 a barrel. Oil prices have rallied recently on gaining equities and an optimisitic outlook for near-term demand as the global economy continues to show signs of improvement.

Energy markets are already weighing in on this week's upcoming inventory reports; according to Reuters, analysts are anticipating an additional build in crude stocks by 1.9 million barrels for the week to Mar. 5. Last week, the EIA spotlighted increases in crude oil and gasoline inventories by 4 million barrels and 700,000 barrels, respectively.

Today, NYMEX gasoline futures traded in positive territory against an expected build in inventories to nearly $2.30 a gallon.

On the domestic energy front, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub for April delivery trimmed a few cents to settle down at $4.53 Mcf.