NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Oil held steady at just under $79 a barrel Monday, a day ahead of BP's ( BP) highly anticipated quarterly results announcement.
BP dominated the spotlight on Monday on a steady stream of reports citing anonymous sources saying Hayward's days at the helm were numbered and that managing director Bob Dudley, who has roots in the American South, would likely be his replacement. BP didn't confirm its plans, instead releasing a press release saying "no final decision has been made" and announcing that the board would meet on Monday night. The stock finished the session up by $1.79, or 4.9%, at $38.65. Analysts expect the company to report second-quarter earnings of $1.39 a share ahead of Tuesday's opening bell. Meanwhile, the NYSE Arca Oil index jumped 1.6% higher, and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index gained 1.1%. Dow components Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Chevron ( CVX), which are expected to release their earnings results Thursday and Friday, respectively, finished ahead by 1.1% and 1.5%, respectively. The major stock market averages got a boost from June new-home sales that surged 23.6%, and after FedEx ( FDX) pumped up its earnings outlook. On the Nymex, the September delivery crude contract traded in a tight range toward the end of the session, after hitting an intraday high of $79.33 a barrel. The contract settled the session unchanged at $78.98 a barrel. "Home data has been mixed, so today's number was definitely bullish in terms of consumer demand," said Hamza Khan, analyst with the Schork Group. But on the prospect of prices, Khan said the overall uncertain data picture has left many investors on the sideline, wondering if there's enough demand to eat in to the abundance of product. "What we're most concerned about it is volume," he said. "I'm just not sure prices are being supported with enough volume." According to multiple news accounts, prices also came under pressure in the morning as fears from Tropical Storm Bonnie evaporated. Also on the Nymex, the August natural gas contract added 3 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $4.61 per million British thermal units. September heating oil shed a penny, or 0.4%, to settle at $2.07 a gallon, while September gasoline also finished a penny lower, or down by 0.6%, at $2.11 a gallon. --Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York.