NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Crude oil this week could trade higher on lower inventory levels and higher refinery utilization rates, while natural gas prices could remain low on higher inventory levels.In the context of a weakening U.S. dollar, crude prices gained upward momentum last week. The dollar could firm early this week on upbeat U.S. economic data, thereby leading to corrections in crude prices. However, intrinsic fundamentals such as lower inventory levels and higher refinery utilization rates may lift crude prices. Gas prices are likely to trade lower on higher inventory levels. According to Baker Hughes, rig counts have been increasing indicating higher output. Technical analysis indicates a rebound in crude prices, whereas natural gas prices could tumble during the week. Crude oil Nymex futures for August delivery were up 47% to settle at $76.09 a barrel. Closure above the weekly short-term exponential moving average indicates positive market sentiment. On the lower side, the key level to watch is $73. The momentum indicator RSI (14) weekly is treading at 0.46 levels and is showing potential to spike. However, a mild correction early this week is expected before the uptrend. Natural gas prices fell sharply last week, declining as much as 6.08%. The momentum indicator RSI (14) weekly is treading at 0.39 levels and has the potential to move lower. Trading below the weekly short-term EMA suggests that natural gas prices may remain lower. Natural gas August futures on Nymex tumbled last week to settle at $4.402, down 6%. Heavy selloffs were witnessed after the EIA reported an inventory buildup of 78 billion cubic feet. Crude oil witnessed its highest gains since May and ended last week at $76.09. The entire week was bullish for crude oil on robust demand in the U.S. and drop in inventories by almost 4.96 million barrels to 358.20 million barrels, the biggest decline since September 2009. In addition, disruption in output and deliveries in the Gulf of Mexico caused oil prices to rise. Hurricane Alex made landfall in northeastern Mexico on June 30. Almost 421,000 barrels of daily oil output, or 26% of Gulf of Mexico production, was shut-in on the day the storm hit shore.
The bullish sentiment was seen after the International Monetary Fund raised its projection for global growth. Economic indicators released last week buoyed oil demand. The softening jobless claims data released last week indicate recovery in the U.S. economy. BP ( BP) led the pack of oil majors gaining 15.8%, while other oil majors Exxon Mobil ( XOM), Chevron ( CVX), ConocoPhillips ( COP), and Total ( TOT) declined 3.8%, 6.5%, 7% and 8.2%, respectively.