Commodity Corner: Oil Slides Below $77

Oil traders looking for signs of growing demand were disappointed Wednesday.

The price of a barrel of crude oil for September delivery settled at $76.99, a 51-cent decrease from Tuesday. A U.S. Census Bureau report that new orders for manufactured goods fell in June contributed to the decline. In its monthly report on durable goods shipments, inventories, and orders, the Census Bureau stated that new orders were $2 billion lower last month than they were in May a 1% decrease and 0.2% higher than the decline for May. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that the country's crude oil inventories increased by 2.1% last week to 360.8 million barrels. For the same period in 2009, the stockpile was at 347.8 million barrels.

Oil traded from $75.90 to $77.74 Wednesday.

Given predictions of above-normal temperatures through much of the U.S. this week and next, the outlook was more positive for natural gas. August natural gas futures rose 11 cents to settle at $4.77 per thousand cubic feet Wednesday. The intraday range for gas was $4.68 to $4.88.

Front-month gasoline futures held steady at $2.06 a gallon Wednesday after trading from $2.03 to $2.07.