Commodity Corner: Employment, Supply Data Deflate Oil Price

The front-month crude oil price settled eight cents lower Wednesday on news of stronger private-sector employment as well as higher fuel inventories.

The price of a barrel of oil for September delivery settled at $82.47 after fluctuating within a band from $81.62 to $82.97 during the day's trading. On the jobs front, the payroll services firm ADP released its National Employment Report for July indicating that nonfarm private employment rose by 42,000 from June to July on a seasonally adjusted basis. The latest figure is more than twice that of the 19,000 figure for May to June, and it is the sixth consecutive monthly gain reported by ADP. ADP tempered the positive employment news with the caveat that the July figure does not include the effects of federal higher, and more recently firing, from the 2010 Census. As a result, a Department of Labor figure scheduled for release on Friday may be lower--and more accurate--than ADP's statistic.

The mixed employment news notwithstanding, a U.S. Department of Energy report that the supply of gasoline increased last week also implied softer demand for crude oil. In its Weekly Petroleum Status Report, the Energy Information Administration stated that the country's supply of gasoline rose by 800,000 barrels last week to 223 million barrels. In contrast, the amount of gasoline in storage was 4.7% lower for the corresponding period in 2009.

Much of the South experiencing triple-digit temperatures, and hotter-than-normal conditions are expected to move into major East Coast cites later in the week. The anticipated strong demand for electricity to provide relief from the heat wave gave natural gas futures a 10-cent boost Wednesday to settle at $4.74 per thousand cubic feet. Natural gas traded from $4.63 to $4.74.

The price of a gallon of gasoline for September delivery slipped by nearly two cents to settle at $2.175. The intraday range for gasoline was $2.17 to $2.20.