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Crude Futures Find Buyers

Energy futures were broadly higher Tuesday as traders re-entered the commodities market at low prices after the previous session's sizable dip.

The May light sweet crude contract edged ahead 38 cents to close at $61.89 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline finished 2 cents higher at $2.12 a gallon, and heating oil was up 4 cents to $1.86 a gallon.

Natural gas advanced more than 4% to close at $7.87 per million British thermal units. A blast of cold weather blanketing much of the country since the first of April is largely responsible for the rise in natural gas prices, according to Phil Flynn, senior analyst at Alaron Trading.

Also supporting the gains are concerns over tight supplies as companies refill their storage tanks after the winter's withdrawals, as well as a recent study predicting an above-normal hurricane season for the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

However, incorrect predictions made since Hurricane Katrina have reduced the effect that storm forecasts have on natural gas prices.

"Every year that goes by after Hurricane Katrina, the hurricane premium built into natural gas prices gets smaller," Flynn says. "If forecasters are incorrect this year after missing big last year, they will likely reassume their old role as fortune-tellers."

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