Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Crude Oil Falls More Than $2 on Signs OPEC to Maintain Output

Crude oil fell more than $2 a barrel on signs that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will leave production targets unchanged at a time of year when demand declines.

Crude oil for April delivery fell $2.93, or 2.9 percent, to settle at $99.52 a barrel at 2:45 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the biggest one-day drop since Feb. 1. Futures surged to $103.95 a barrel yesterday, the highest since trading began in 1983. Prices are up 66 percent from a year ago.

U.S. crude-oil inventories rose for the past seven weeks, and gasoline stockpiles reached their highest in 14 years, according to an Energy Department report on Feb. 27.

Crude-oil supplies probably advanced 2.4 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 29, according to the median of responses by 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News. The Energy Department is scheduled to release its weekly report on inventories tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. in Washington.

Gasoline for April delivery dropped 14.29 cents, or 5.4 percent, to $2.5291 a gallon in New York. It was the biggest drop since Oct. 30, 2006. Futures touched $2.7325 yesterday, an intraday record for gasoline to be blended with ethanol, known as RBOB, which began trading in October 2005.

On Oct. 15, prices passed the previous all-time inflation- adjusted record reached in 1981 when Iran cut oil exports. The cost of imported oil used by U.S. refiners averaged $39 a barrel in February 1981, according to the Energy Department, or $92.50 in today's dollars.

Brent crude for April settlement fell $2.96, or 3 percent, to close at $97.52 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange. Futures reached $102.29 a barrel yesterday, the highest since trading began in 1988.

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