Crude prices fell below the $72-a-barrel level Thursday, tripped up by the same bearish sentiment that tore through global equity markets in the trading session.
September light sweet crude fell 51 cents to $71.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline remained unchanged at $1.94 a gallon. Heating oil rose 2 cents to $1.99.
September natural gas rose 37 cents to $6.59 per million British thermal units.
Worries about shrinking oil consumption in a slowing global economy continued to suppress crude prices, according to Alan Mandel, analyst at Alan M. Trading. However, investors shouldn't expect oil to fall much further, Mandel says.
"There will be a buying opportunity if oil falls below $68," he says. "Geopolitical hotspots around the world are still relevant, and we haven't yet entered the peak of hurricane season."
Elsewhere, the Energy Information Administration reported new natural gas inventory figures. Natural gas stores rose by 42 billion cubic feet during the week ending Aug. 3. This was slightly less than the 49 billion cubic feet injection that analysts had forecast before the announcement.
The price of near-term natural gas jumped 5.7% on Thursday. A heat wave blanketing much of the country is pushing prices upward, according to Dennis Gartman, publisher of
The Gartman Letter
Meanwhile, energy stocks were hammered in Thursday's trading session. The
CBOE Oil Index
slid 2.6% to 724.41.
lost 2.6% of its value, closing at $78.57.
fell 3.1% to $84.79.
Among ratings changes, Lehman Brothers upgraded
to overweight from equal weight. However, shares of Marathon dropped 4.2% to $49.86.
Kinder Morgan Energy Partners
was upgraded by Sanders Morris Harris to buy from neutral. The stock is down 2.7% at $49.74.
was upgraded by Matrix Research to strong buy from buy. Shares fell 2.1% to $101.42.
was downgraded by Wachovia to market perform from outperform, lowering its shares 3.9% to $34.06.