Commodity Corner: Crude Up on Economic Reports

Light, sweet November crude settled higher Thursday after gasoline futures rose on news of a major refinery shutdown. Positive reports
for economic recovery also contributed to the rebound Thursday.

Front-month oil prices increased 47 cents, settling at $75.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. ConocoPhillips halted operations at a New Jersey refinery to install new equipment. The refinery, which processes 238,000 barrels a day, is expected to restart Nov. 4. Analysts claim the refinery shutdown pressured gasoline prices but are unsure of its future effect.

The Conference Board reported an increase in its index of leading economic indicators--the most since May. Additionally, the National
Association of Realtors said the number of previously owned homes increased 7.6 percent last month after reaching record lows in July.
Meanwhile, initial unemployment claims rose 12,000 to 465,000 for the week ended Sept. 18, according to the U.S. Labor Department. An increase in jobless claims contributes to lower fuel demand.

The intraday range for oil was $73.58 to $75.61 on Thursday.

Natural gas for November delivery also rose Thursday, hitting the $4 mark for the first time this week. Henry Hub natural gas settled at
$4.02 per thousand cubic feet on threats of a potential Caribbean storm that could disrupt production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The National Hurricane Center reported at 1:30 P.M. central time that the weather system had become a tropical depression. As of now, it is unclear if it will make its way to the Gulf of Mexico, the biggest oil-producing region in the U.S.

Natural gas inventories grew by 73 billion cubic feet (bcf), according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA). Inventories remain above the five-year average with 3.340 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in storage for the week ended Sept. 17.

Natural gas fluctuated from $3.97 to $4.13.

RBOB gasoline rallied Thursday, increasing 1.60 cents to settle at $1.92 a gallon. Gasoline peaked at $1.93, while bottoming out at