Crude futures extended their record-setting run and settled above $81 a barrel for the second straight session Tuesday.
October light sweet crude oil gained 42 cents to $81.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and touched an intraday high of $82.51. Reformulated gasoline rose 3.5 cents to about $2.10 per gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $2.24 a gallon.
Near-term natural gas was again weak, falling 39 cents to $6.18 per million British thermal units.
The crude market may be overbought at its current price, according to Thomas Hartman, an analyst at Altavest Worldwide Trading. "It is a legitimate question to ask whether the high price of crude is being dictated by high demand," he said.
If current prices aren't correlated with demand, the crude market could soon move lower, Hartman said. Also, a weak finish for the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season is nudging natural gas prices lower, he said.
Longer-term, though, the trend for crude is to the upside, oil expert and investor T. Boone Pickens said during a televised interview. Pickens, who had predicted $80 oil before that mark was reached, also told
that crude would get to $100 a barrel "at some point," but probably not this year.
Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration released new petroleum inventory figures that were slightly more bullish than analysts had anticipated.
Crude stores fell by 3.9 million barrels during the week ended Sept. 14. Analysts were expecting a 2-million-barrel fall.
Gasoline stocks increased by 417,000 barrels, whereas analysts had expected a 1-million-barrel decline. Distillate inventories climbed by 1.6 million barrels, about 400,000 more than expected.
The U.S. refinery utilization rate slid from 90.5% to 89.6% during the week.
Elsewhere, most energy stocks appreciated in the trading session.
climbed 0.8% to $94.11, and
advanced 1.1% to $58.38.
was downgraded by CIBC World Markets to sector perform from sector outperform, sending its shares 4.3% lower to $95.19.
Separately, Bernstein initiated coverage of four oil service companies.
was assigned a rating of outperform, while
were all given market perform ratings.
Weatherford gained 2.5% to $68.49, and Baker Hughes slipped 0.3% to $88.23. Halliburton climbed 1.1% to $38.02, and Schlumberger was 2.1% higher to $106.97.