Crude Oil Prices Jump

The June contract adds $1.33 to $66.27 a barrel.
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Crude futures spiked above $66 a barrel in Monday's session at the New York Mercantile Exchange, propelled by lingering concerns about inadequate inventories of oil and motor gasoline.

The June light sweet crude contract added $1.33 to $66.27 a barrel, but reformulated gasoline was essentially unchanged at $2.40 a gallon. Heating oil climbed 3 cents to $1.95 a gallon.

The near-term natural gas contract slipped 3 cents to $7.91 per million British thermal units.

Crude oil and gasoline markets continue to be plagued by refinery problems in the U.S. Refinery utilization is significantly lower than normal for this time of year, resulting in abnormally low gasoline stores as the nation approaches the summer driving season beginning Memorial Day weekend.

"A stretched gasoline market ahead of the upcoming peak demand season is likely to remain the market's major point of focus for the time being, with gasoline prices ... likely to find strong support in any further interruption to normal refinery operations," according to analysts at Barclays Capital.

The lesson to be learned from the abnormally low utilization rates is that "the U.S. refining industry is old; its infrastructure is old and prone to problems, to breakage and to unplanned closures and repairs," wrote Dennis Gartman, publisher of

The Gartman Letter

.

This "is a problem that shall only get worse given that no new refineries have been built here in the U.S. in several decades and few, if any, are being considered."

Meanwhile, a large batch of M&A deals echoed through the energy complex.

Anadarko Petroleum

(APC) - Get Report

announced that it will sell its stake in two Qatari properties to

Occidental Petroleum

(OXY) - Get Report

for $350 million in order to pay off debt. Shares of Anadarko climbed 1% to $49.41.

Williams Companies

(WMB) - Get Report

announced that it will sell its power-generating assets to Bear Stearns for $512 million. Moody's has since placed the company under review for a potential upgrade of its credit rating. Shares of Williams jumped 7.3% to $31.06.

Norwegian oil and gas firm

Norsk Hydro

(NHY)

is selling its polymer business to U.K. chemical firm Ineos for $905 million. Norsk Hydro edged 0.2% higher to $35.54.

Elsewhere,

Atlas Energy Resources

(ATN)

is purchasing

DTE Energy's

(DTE) - Get Report

stake in the Michigan Antrim Shale natural gas field for $1.23 billion. The purchase includes 2,150 producing natural gas wells. Shares of Atlas Energy soared 14.7% to $35.45 on the news.

Additionally,

Amerigas Partners

(APU) - Get Report

revealed that it's buying the U.S. propane distribution business of

Royal Dutch Shell's

(RDS.A)

Shell Gas USA unit for an undisclosed sum. Amerigas closed 1.6% higher at $37.81.

Separately,

Marathon

(MRO) - Get Report

announced that it has made two new oil discoveries off the coast of Angola. One well hasn't yet been flow-tested for mechanical reasons, but the second flow-tested at a rate of 6,258 barrels of oil a day. Marathon traded 1.4% higher at $116.07.

On the whole, the energy sector finished higher, as the CBOE Oil Index advanced 0.8% to 731.23.