Crude oil futures prices for the April contract climbed above $100/bbl on the New York market on Mar. 19, which analysts attributed to positive indicators from US policymakers regarding the economic recovery.
The US Federal Reserve announced plans to taper its monthly bond purchases to $55 billion in April from $65 billion in February and March.
The Fed’s stimulus measures have weakened the dollar, making oil less expensive for buyers using foreign currencies. The tapering of the bond-buying program indicates the Fed expects improved economic growth, which could lead to higher US demand for oil.
Fed officials also expect the US unemployment rate will fall faster in 2015-16 than it has in recent months. Separately, US natural gas storage levels have reached a 10-year low.
A weekly natural gas storage report released Mar. 20 showed gas storage in the Lower 48 has dropped below 1 tcf, which the US Energy Information Administration had expected (OGJ Online, Mar. 13, 2014).
EIA estimated stored gas levels for the week ended Mar. 14 at 953 bcf, marking a net decline of 48 bcf from the previous week. Stocks were 932 bcf less than last year at this time and 876 bcf below the 5-year average of 1.829 tcf.
Oil traders also kept watch on Ukraine’s government, which plans to evacuate its military from Crimea. European Union leaders are discussing possible escalation in sanctions against Russia.
On Mar. 20, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Group of Eight is defunct until Moscow changes its tactics on Ukraine. Markel told Germany’s parliament that she and European leaders would not attend a G8 summit that had been planned for June in Russia.
The April natural gas contract rose 2.8¢ to a rounded $4.48/MMbtu. On the US spot market, the gas price at Henry Hub was $4.45/MMbtu, down 3.3¢.
Heating oil for April delivery declined 1.45¢ to a rounded $2.90/gal. Reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenate blending for April delivery gave up 3.4¢ to a rounded $2.87/gal.
In London, the May ICE contract for Brent crude delivery decreased 94¢, closing at $105.85/bbl. The June contract dropped 87¢ to $105.67/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for April was down $4.50 to $887/tonne.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported its basket of 12 benchmark crudes declined 13¢ to $103.16/bbl on Mar. 18.
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