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Crude Oil Slumps to $84 a Barrel

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Crude oil prices slumped to $84 a barrel Monday as a stronger greenback made dollar-priced commodities less attractive to foreign buyers.

Although the June delivery contract for crude traded as high as $85.63 on Monday, it finished only a little higher than its lowest point of the session: $84.06. The contract lost 92 cents, or 1.1%, to settle at $84.20 a barrel -- a disappointing turn after its performance on Friday, when it added $1.42 to settle at $85.12 a barrel on surging new-home sales and strong durable goods orders.

A strong U.S. dollar, which was trading 0.3% higher against a basket of foreign currencies for most of the session, was putting some downward pressure on crude. The dollar index was last up by 0.1%. The dollar was picking up against the euro, in particular, as concerns arose about how and when a financial rescue package to aid Greece will become ratified.

Stocks failed to establish a clear direction Monday. The Dow spent the session in positive territory, supported by strong earnings results from Caterpillar (CAT) while other major U.S. indices were pressured by concerns about tightened financial regulations.

Oil-related stocks were moving both above and below the flat line, with the NYSE Arca Oil index losing 0.5% and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index dropping 0.4%. Exxon Mobil (XOM) and ConocoPhillips (COP) were the only oil majors to close slightly ahead Monday.

This week is a big one for major oil firms, which are set to report earnings news. National Oilwell Varco (NOV) and Valero (VLO) will report before Tuesday's opening bell.

On Wednesday, Hess (HES) will offer its first-quarter assessment in the morning.

Integrated majors ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil will be joined by Apache (APA), Smith International (SII) and BJ Services (BJS) in reporting Thursday morning. By the late afternoon, the market will hear from refiners Sunoco (SUN) and Tesoro (TSO), which are each expected to report losses.

Dow component Chevron will cap the week's oil-related releases by reporting Friday.

Shares of Schlumberger (SLB), which received a price target and earnings estimate lift at Citi, added a penny, or 0.01%, at $72.69.

Elsewhere, workers were attempting to contain an oil leak off the Gulf of Mexico, according to multiple reports, that is unleashing some 1,000 barrels of oil a day into the water. The spill began after an oil rig controlled by Transocean (RIG), which was then leased out to BP (BP), experienced an explosion and sunk late last week. The Associated Press reported the leak could take months to completely fix.

Shares of natural gas alternative fuel provider Clean Energy Fuels (CLNE) lost 9% as the climate bill stalled in Washington.

Elsewhere, the natural gas contract for May delivery gained nearly a penny, or 0.1%, to settle at $4.26 per million British thermal units. The June heating oil contract shed a penny, or 0.6%, to settle at $2.24 a gallon, while June gasoline also lost a penny, or 0.6%, to settle at $2.35 a gallon.

--Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York.

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