MARKET WATCH: Crude oil prices gain, US natural gas drops

US light, sweet crude oil prices for February delivery gained modestly on the New York market Jan. 14, closing at above $31/bbl while Brent prices on the London market closed just above $31/bbl within days of both benchmarks briefly dipping under $30/bbl.

Analysts said oil prices appeared to be limited by lingering concerns about a slowing Chinese economy and the pace of its oil imports along with the anticipated return of increased Iranian crude oil exports to an already oversupplied world oil market.

Meanwhile, US natural gas spot and futures prices dipped Jan. 14 following release of the weekly gas storage report by the Energy Information Administration, which showed a smaller withdrawal than analysts had expected.

Gas in underground storage across the Lower 48 fell 168 bcf for the week ended Jan. 8. Analysts surveyed by the Wall Street Journal before the report was released had expected a withdrawal of 175 bcf.

The latest estimated total was 3.475 tcf, which EIA said was 587 bcf higher than last year at this time and 474 bcf above the 5-year average of 3.001 tcf. The level of gas in underground storage remained above the 5-year historical range, the Gas Storage Report said.

Energy prices

The February crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 72¢ to settle at $31.20/bbl. The March contract was up 72¢/bbl to settle at $32.11/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for February dropped 13¢/MMbtu to a rounded $2.14/MMbtu. The Henry Hub gas price dropped 11¢ to $2.19/MMbtu on Jan. 14.  

Heating oil for February delivery gained 1¢ to 98¢/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for February was up 1.6¢ to a rounded $1.07/gal.

The February ICE contract for Brent crude rose 72¢ to $31.03/bbl, and the March contract was up 60¢ to $30.88. The ICE gas oil contract was $283.25/tonne on Jan. 14, down $4.25.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes for Jan. 14 was $25/bbl, down 69¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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