Crude Drops 4% on Euro-Debt Fears

The June crude contract had its worst single-day percentage decline since February, losing $3.45, or 4%, to settle at $82.74 a barrel.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Crude oil prices plunged Tuesday in their worst one-day percentage decline in three months as fears of a eurozone sovereign debt crisis spiraled out of control and lifted the dollar to new highs against the euro.

The June crude contract lost $3.45, or 4% -- the largest percentage decline in a single day since February, according to

Reuters

. The contract settled near session lows at $82.74 a barrel on a day that saw June crude trade as high as $86.24 and as low as $82.72 as European contagion fears diminished the market's appetite for risk.

"It's a pretty strong reversal from yesterday's high and it's the second time we've failed to hold on to $87 a barrel," said Addison Armstrong, director of market research at Tradition Energy. "The volume has been pretty high and the selling pressure has been pretty relentless."

"It's coming off the back of equities weak and dollar strong," he added. "Plus, I gotta believe fundamentals are playing some role in this."

Despite a bailout agreement brokered over the weekend to help debt-ridden Greece, the

dollar touched a new one-year high against the euro on a cavalcade of persisting doubts. Uncertainty remains about whether Greece will approve the bailout measure, whether the package will be enough to contain the problem, and even whether the sovereign debt bug will spread to fellow eurozone nations Spain and Portugal. A stronger greenback makes the price of dollar-denominated crude more pricey, lessening its appeal -- particularly to foreign buyers.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a host of currencies, rose 1.1% Tuesday. Meanwhile, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

lost 2%, the

S&P 500

shed 2.4% and the Nasdaq closed 3% lower.

Adding to the crude price pressure, are analysts' expectations for additional increases in crude oil inventories.

Late Tuesday, the industry's own American Petroleum Institute said crude oil stockpiles gained 2.95 million barrels in the week ended April 30.

Analysts polled by Platts have been looking for a 1.54 million-barrel build in crude supplies and markets will look to the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday morning for their weekly inventory figures.

Oil-related equities fell on an already downbeat day for stocks, with the NYSE Arca Oil index declining 2.5% and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index trading lower by 3.7%.

Baker Hughes

(BHI)

beat first-quarter profit expectations Tuesday, though its earnings were lower vs. year-ago results. But underwhelming guidance, according to

Reuters

, put pressure on shares, which closed $2.78, or 5.5% lower, at $47.94.

Shares of

Marathon Oil

(MRO) - Get Report

reported earnings of 44 cents a share, comfortably outdistancing consensus forecasts for 19 cents a share, according to

Briefing.com

, but finished the session down by 12 cents, or 0.4%, to $32.15.

Natural gas player

Chesapeake Energy

(CHK) - Get Report

finished the session 1.9% lower but shares were gaining 1.2% in after-hours trading as the natural gas producer reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

With the

oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico growing by the day, and officials trying everything to contain the disaster, American depositary shares of

BP

(BP) - Get Report

began recovering Tuesday. The firm, tasked with the cleanup following an explosion on a rig it leased, gained $1.01, or 2%, to $51.20.

Also on the Nymex, the June natural gas contract settled a penny higher at $4.01 per million British thermal units. Heating oil for June delivery, meanwhile, lost 9 cents, or 3.7%, to settle at $2.26 a gallon, and the June gasoline contract gave up 11 cents, or 4.6%, to settle at $2.32 a gallon.

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

.