Oil Futures Prices Finish Mixed
NEW YORK (AP) _ Energy futures prices finished mixed Friday, with near-month contracts posting losses amid concern that petroleum supplies will exceed demand in the short term.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the March contract for West Texas Intermediate, the main grade of crude oil, fell 35 cents to $21.74 per 42- gallon barrel. The contract finished the week with a net loss of $1.28 a barrel.
Crude oil for April lost 9 cents to $21.56 a barrel, while contracts for later delivery posted gains.
Among refined products traded on the exchange, wholesale unleaded gasoline for March delivery fell 1.61 cents to 59.56 cents a gallon, for a net weekly loss of 4.66 cents. April closed 1.50 lower at 60.25 cents a gallon, May was off 1.15 cents to 64.25 cents and other contracts had narrower declines.
March heating oil, which lost 0.57 cent on Thursday, remained under pressure from warm weather in the Northeast, traders said. The contract closed down 0.24 cent at 55.08 cents a gallon. Later contracts finished higher. April ended at 54.62 cents, up 0.21 cent, and May rose 0.61 cent to 54.06 cents a gallon.
Analysts said prices came under pressure from industry and government reports this week that showed an increase in crude and product supplies in the nation’s storage tanks. The higher stocks coincide with lower seasonal demand.
Crude prices also weakened on word that many big refineries would slow operations for their spring overhaul in the next few months, which suggests a decline in demand for raw oil by refiners.
Although this week’s reports by the American Petroleum Institute and Department of Energy showed that gasoline supplies were higher week-to-week but lower than last year, analysts said there was no immediate cause to worry about possible supply tightness.
Jack Baker, energy analyst with Prudential-Bache Securities Inc. called ″outlandish″ a news report Friday that suggested a possible squeeze in motor fuel supplies this spring.
″We have less inventories than last year but more than we had last April 1 and we’re making more,″ said Baker.
Moreover, annual maintenance turnarounds at refineries are being done in March and April, earlier than last year and well ahead of the peak gasoline season, analysts said. Refineries, therefore, are expected to be pumping plenty of gasoline in time to meet spring demand and environmental standards requiring lower-polluting motor fuel, analysts said.