Crude futures broke records again Thursday, at one point crossing $84 a barrel intraday, while natural gas continued to lag the rest of the energy complex.
October light sweet crude, trading as the front-month contract for the final time, climbed $1.39 to $83.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Barclays Capital said in a research note that the high price of oil is being supported by strong fundamentals.
"The tightening of the global oil balances that the steady decline in U.S. crude oil inventory represents and the heightening of tensions over Iran have persuaded us to push up our
fourth-quarter forecast from the previous $70/barrel for the WTI front month price to $76.90," analysts at Barclays said. "We have also nudged up the 2008 forecast to $77 from the previous $73.90."
However, Edward Meir, an analyst at Man Financial, wrote in an email that the series of consecutive days of new record highs have left crude markets "severely overbought and due for a pullback."
Oil has been on a tear for much of the past month. On Aug. 21, crude futures closed below $70 a barrel before going into rally mode.
Elsewhere, reformulated gasoline edged 4 cents higher to nearly $2.14 a gallon, and heating oil gained 1.5 cents to $2.26 a gallon. Near-term natural gas slipped again, losing 17 cents to finish at $6.01 per million British thermal units.
Meanwhile, energy stocks finished the session mostly higher, and the
Dow Jones U.S. Oil and Gas Index
ended little changed at $92.09.
Royal Dutch Shell
advanced 1.7% to $84.20.
Friedman Billings downgraded a swath of ethanol stocks before the session opened.
was downgraded to market perform from outperform.
was changed to underperform from market perform, and
Aventine Renewable Energy
was switched to underperform from outperform.
Verasun fell 4.5% to $11.48. Pacific Ethanol plummeted 8.4% to $10.23, and Aventine Renewable was off 1.1% to $11.55.