Commodity Corner: Oil Nears $79

Despite a U.S. Commerce Department report indicating slower gross domestic product growth in the second quarter, crude oil for September delivery settled near $79 Friday.

Oil futures ended the day at $78.95, a 59-cent gain from Thursday. The Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Friday morning an estimated real GDP of 2.4% for the second quarter, a 1.3% decrease from the first quarter. In addition, the bureau stated that real GDP during the recession fell by 4.1% -- not 3.7% as previously thought. "Today's data shows us that the recession was steeper than initially estimated," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said in a prepared statement. A noted indicator of consumer confidence, the Consumer Sentiment Index released Friday by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, revealed more bad news for the economy. The monthly survey of U.S. households revealed a decline in the index from 76.0 in June to 67.8 in July, indicating that consumers sense slower economic growth. As a point of reference, the index was at 66.0 in July 2009.

One positive economic indicator emerged from the Windy City, however. The Institute for Supply Management Chicago, which releases its monthly "Chicago Business Barometer" to gauge purchasing managers' impressions of economic activity, reported a rebound in activity for July. According to the organization, five of its seven business activity indexes increased in July and all seven reached positive territory.

The intraday range for oil was $76.83 to $79.05. Crude oil ended the week down, three cents lower than Monday's settlement price.

The natural gas contract price for September delivery settled nine cents higher to $4.92 per thousand cubic feet. Gas traded from $4.78 to $4.94, and it is up 31 cents for the week.

August gasoline futures gained a penny to settle at $2.11 a gallon after fluctuating from $2.06 to $2.12. Gasoline finished the week flat.