MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices rise modestly, hover under $40/bbl

Light, sweet crude oil prices rose modestly on the New York market Mar. 21 but still hovered under $40/bbl by closing. Prices gained strength toward the end of the trading session after waffling between gains and losses throughout Mar. 21, which analysts largely blamed on world oversupply concerns.

The April contract expired with the close on Mar. 21. Analysts said downward pressure on prices continues because of ample crude supply, particularly US crude and product supply.

Concerning world oil supplies, an Apr. 17 meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers is scheduled in Qatar to discuss freezing output at January levels. OPEC Sec. Gen. Abdalla Salem el-Badri said that he has heard about 15 countries plan to attend.

“Maybe some of our members will not attend. Some non-OPEC members will not attend,” el-Badri said during a Mar. 21 news conference in Vienna. Iranian oil officials have said Iran is working to rebuild its market share and has no intention of joining any oil production freeze pact for now.

“It would seem that Iran, the only OPEC producer that is currently growing production, will be exempt—and there will thus be little to no effect on the physical markets,” said Jason Gammel, an analyst at Jefferies. Iran is ramping up oil exports after years of nuclear-related international sanctions against the nation were lifted.

Oil prices trended lower in early Mar. 22 trading on reports of a stronger US dollar following terrorist attacks in Belgium.

Energy prices

The April crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 47¢ to $39.91/bbl on Mar. 21. The May contract gained 38¢ to $41.52/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for April rose was down nearly 8¢ to a rounded $1.83/MMbtu. The Henry Hub gas price was $1.76/MMbtu, down 8¢.

Heating oil for April delivery dropped less than a penny to remain at a rounded $1.24/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for April rose 3¢ to a rounded $1.46/gal on Mar. 21.

The Brent crude contract for May on London’s ICE climbed 34¢ to $41.54/bbl. The June contract was up 37¢ to $42.23/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for April was $370.25/tonne, down $4.75.

The average price for OPEC’s basket of 12 benchmark crudes was $36.27/bbl, down 32¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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