Oil Prices Mixed
NEW YORK (AP) _ Crude oil futures rose Monday amid renewed doubts about the future of talks on Iraqi oil sales. But heating oil fell as temperatures climbed to springlike levels in the Northeast.
Gasoline prices rose as a small Louisiana refinery shutdown helped heighten concerns about already low stocks heading into the summer driving season.
Light sweet crude for delivery in May settled at $24.07 per barrel on its last trading day, up 12 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
May delivery of home heating oil fell 0.66 cent to 55.06 cents.
May unleaded gasoline rose a strong 2.70 cents to close at 70.9 cents a gallon.
Traders were betting last week that Iraq would soon reach a deal with the United Nations allowing it to sell $2 billion worth of oil over six months to pay for food and medicine for the Iraqi people. But that enthusiasm wilted Monday as Abdul Amir al-Anbari, Iraq’s chief negotiator, hinted that the United States and Britain are delaying a final deal.
Jerry Samuels, managing director of ARB Oil Inc. in Los Angeles, said crude oil rallied, but not as much as during the final contract trading days of the past few months. The market has been pulled back and forth for weeks by shifting sentiments on the possibility of an Iraqi oil deal.
``It seemed as if it was going to be a done deal last week, but now there seems to be this continual foot-dragging,″ he said, adding that many market watchers still expect a deal eventually.
Iraq has been barred from world oil markets since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. If the oil-for-food deal succeeds, the increased supply is bound to lower prices.
Gasoline rallied partly on technical factors related to the upcoming contract May expiration, said Samuels. Contributing to the increase was Conoco Inc.’s announcement that it had shut a 45,000 barrel-a-day gasoline refinery in Lake Charles, La. following a fire.
Trading was quiet in heating oil, and the price of the May contract was pressured by good weather.
``Even though the stocks are still quite low, with 70 degree temperatures, the perception is we might be out of the woods with regard to a late surge for distillate demand,″ he said. Distillates are refined fuel products including heating oil.
May natural gas fell 0.2 cent to $2.359 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, June delivery of North Sea Brent Blend crude oil settled at $19.03 per barrel, up 50 cents, at the International Petroleum Exchange.