Oil Falls to 8-Month Low; Natural Gas Drops 5 Percent


The price of oil closed at the lowest level in eight months Thursday, as traders worried about bulging supplies of crude oil and falling demand for gasoline.

Meanwhile, natural gas prices fell by 5 percent on forecasts for warmer-than-normal weather in the coming weeks.

Benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery fell 67 cents to close at $91.66 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price did rise back above $92 in electronic trading after the close, perhaps piggybacking on a move by U.S. stocks into positive territory.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Department said supplies of gasoline rose by 6.2 million barrels last week, a jump of nearly 3 percent. Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill, said the data indicated that demand for gasoline was the lowest in a year. At the same time, U.S. production of crude oil is the highest in more than 25 years, and supplies “are near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year,” the Energy Department said.

As of the close, oil is down nearly 7 percent so far this year.

Natural gas futures plunged 21 cents, or 5 percent, to $4.01 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas last closed below $4 on Dec. 4. With the U.S. pulling out from a recent spell of extremely cold weather, forecasts are starting to warm up. “Some of these outlooks are tilting increasingly in favor of warmer than normal trends in some parts of the upper mid-continent,” wrote Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, in a note to clients.

At the gas pump, the average price for a gallon of gasoline remained at $3.31. That’s 5 cents higher than a month ago and 1 penny more expensive than at this time last year.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, dropped 76 cents to $106.39 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline dipped 1 cent to $2.64 a gallon.

— Heating oil slipped 3 cents to $2.92 a gallon.