Oil Is Steady

Crude oil was little changed after declining for the first time in a week on skepticism that a U.S. government bailout plan for financial companies will bolster economic growth and demand for fuels.

Oil dropped as much as 4.9 percent yesterday as lawmakers debated how the rescue measure should be structured, threatening early enactment. U.S. crude stockpiles are expected to decline in a report out later today, extending a 14.2 million-barrel withdrawal in the past four weeks.

Crude oil for November delivery was at $106.90 a barrel, up 29 cents, in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 1:56 p.m. in Singapore. Prices are down 27 percent from the record $147.27 a barrel on July 11.

Yesterday, oil fell $2.76, or 2.5 percent, to $106.61 a barrel after touching $104.05 a barrel. It was the fourth day this month prices have declined more than $5 a barrel.

Oil for October delivery rose by a record $16.37 a barrel on Sept. 22 before expiring as traders who sold the future last week, when oil dipped close to $90, had to buy the contracts back. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is investigating the price move and has subpoenaed dozens of traders, two people briefed about the legal proceedings said.

Prices also fell on signs U.S. demand for gasoline continues to decline. Motor fuel purchases dropped 7.6 percent from a year ago to their lowest since January 2007, MasterCard Inc. said yesterday in its weekly SpendingPulse report.

Motorist bought an average 8.276 million barrels of gasoline a day in the week ended Sept. 19, down from 9.443 million barrels a year earlier, the report said. It was the 22nd week of year-on- year declines.

Energy companies reported that four rigs and 203 production platforms remain evacuated from hurricanes earlier this month, the Minerals Management Service said yesterday in a statement on its Web site. About 870,000 barrels of daily oil production remains shut-in, along with 4.56 billion cubic feet of gas.

The Gulf of Mexico accounts for 26 percent of U.S. oil production and 14 percent of natural-gas output.

Fourteen Texas and Louisiana refineries, with a combined crude-oil processing capacity of 3.57 million barrels a day, were shut because of Ike. At least three refineries are still shut and nine more are starting up or may start up this week, according to the Energy Department. Ike struck Texas on Sept. 13, two weeks after Gustav hit Louisiana.

Gold fell for a second day in Asia to trade under $900 an ounce, as investors sought to raise cash after stocks tumbled. Gold for immediate delivery fell as much as 1.5 percent to $878.45 an ounce, and traded at $883.50 an ounce at 1:56 p.m. in Singapore. Silver for immediate delivery was down 0.9 percent at $13.1725 an ounce.

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg.com
9/24/2008 5:33:48 AM