NEW YORK (
) -- Oil futures lost ground Tuesday as disappointing existing-home sales data renewed concerns about the possibility of a double-dip recession.
The July delivery contract on the Nymex, which expired Tuesday, lost 61 cents, or 0.8%, to settle at $$77.21 a barrel. The more actively traded August delivery contract, meanwhile, fell 76 cents, or 1% lower, to settle at $77.85 a barrel.
Struggling equities, the return of eurozone worries with
Fitch's debt rating cut on
and weak macroeconomic data on Tuesday all contributed to dampened sentiment.
Stocks spent most of the session looking for direction before plunging at the close. The
Dow Jones Industrial Average
lost nearly 150 points to finish more than 1% weaker, as did the other major U.S. indices. The morning's existing-home sales data revealed an
unexpected 2% drop in May after sales jumped 8% the month before. The Richmond Fed index, which measures factory activity in the region, also slowed to read 23 in June vs. 26 in May, though continued suggesting expansion for the fifth month in a row.
After the close of trading, the industry's American Petroleum Institute said crude oil inventories gained 3.69 million barrels in the week ended June 18 though analysts polled by Platts had been expecting a decline of 1.5 million barrels.
On Wednesday morning, the government will release a separate report on weekly inventory levels.
Energy was one of the session's weakest sectors and the NYSE Arca Oil index fell by 2.3%. The Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index lost 3.5%. The two biggest weights on the index were unsurprising. The ongoing drama of containing the massive Gulf oil spill weighed on
American depositary receipts, which shed 65 cents, or 2.1%, to close at $29.68.
, which faces potential liability of its own related to the spill, lost $1.75, or 4%, at $41.70.
was among the Dow's weakest performers and
wasn't far off. The stocks each finished lower, by 2.3% and 1.9%, respectively.
Also on the Nymex, August heating oil gave up 3 cents, or 1.4%, to settle at $2.13 a gallon, and August gasoline lost 1 cent, or 0.5%, to settle at $2.13 a gallon. Natural gas for July delivery also weakened, shedding 12 cents, or 2.4%, to settle at $4.76 per million British thermal units.
--Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York