Price settles above $102 as dollar slips to new low against the euro

Crude prices rose by almost $3 today after the dollar fell to new lows against most of its counterparts, mainly the euro. The dollar fell on interest rate outlook in the US as Chairman Ben Bernanke continued to answer questions for the second day at Capitol Hill. He had hinted yesterday that Fed will go for further softer landing in the coming days and might reduce interest rate by another fifty bps in its next meeting.

Crude-oil futures for light sweet crude for April delivery today closed at $102.59/barrel (higher by $2.95/barrel or 3%) on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are 66% higher than a year ago. Reports of production disruption at Nigeria also pushed up crude prices today.

In the currency market today, the U.S. dollar tumbled to record lows against the euro after lackluster economic data and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments raised fears about the U.S. economy. The trade-weighted dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, fell 1.2% to 73.68.

The Commerce Department reported today that the U.S. economy grew at an unrevised 0.6% annual rate for the fourth quarter. And for all of 2007, the economy grew at the weakest pace in five years.

Today, oil prices were also supported by reports of a partial shutdown of production in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and the U.S.'s fifth-largest crude supplier.

Yesterday crude prices had infact dropped after EIA had reported in the weekly inventory report that crude inventories grew more than expected, rising 3.2 million barrels to stand at 308.5 million barrels in the week ended 22 February. Market was expecting an increase of 2.6 million barrels.

Brent crude oil for April settlement today rose $2.63 (2.7%) to $100.9 on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The London benchmark rose 54% in FY 2007, the most since 1999 when prices more than doubled.

Natural gas supplies drop more than average

Natural gas advanced after a government report showed supplies fell more than average, signaling inventories may end the cold-weather demand season at the lowest since March 2005. Gas for April delivery rose 38.3 cents (4.2%) to settle at $9.433 per million British thermal units. EIA reported that stockpiles declined 151 billion cubic feet to 1.619 trillion cubic feet for the week ended 22 February.

Against this backdrop, March reformulated gasoline gained 2 cents to $2.50 a gallon and March heating oil rose 8 cents to end at $2.85 a gallon. Both contracts are due to expire tomorrow.

In a monthly report released earlier this month, EIA said the world oil market is poised to ease over the next two years with production increases offsetting moderate growth in oil demand.

Crude had ended FY 2007 substantially higher by $35 or 57%. It was crude's biggest yearly gain in five years.

At the MCX, crude oil for March delivery closed at Rs 4,034/barrel, higher by Rs 27 (0.7%) against previous day's close. Natural gas for March delivery closed at Rs 374.5/mmtbu, higher by Rs 13.6/mmtbu (3.8%).