Analysts largely attributed the gain in oil prices to a dropping US rig count, which fell 12 units to 502 for the week ended Feb. 26, according to Baker Hughes Inc. data. While the decline was the smallest so far this year, it represented the eighth consecutive weekly double-digit drop.
The latest rig count total was the lowest since Apr. 30, 1999, a week after the 1998-99 downturn hit its bottom of 488.
Meanwhile, US natural gas futures are near a 17-year low for the second time in 2 weeks, which analysts attributed to warm weather forecasts for the next 2 weeks coupled with a supply glut of gas in underground storage across the Lower 48.
The NYMEX natural gas contract for April was down 8¢ to $1.71/MMbtu. Gas prices also were $1.71/MMbtu on Feb. 25, and at that time, observers said it was the lowest close since March 1999. The Henry Hub gas price fell 4¢ on Feb. 29 to $1.62/MMbtu.
The April ICE contract for Brent crude climbed 87¢ to $35.97/bbl, and the May contract gained $1.13 to settle at $36.57/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for March was $324.50/tonne, down 75¢.
The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $30.13/bbl, down 61¢.
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