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Commodities trading outlook: natural gas, crude oil futures

West Texas Intermediate traded little changed ahead of US supply data that may show a tenth consecutive weekly build in US crude oil inventories. Brent advanced amid escalating tension between the West and Russia after leaders of the global leading industrial countries suspended Russia from G-8, in response to its annexation of Crimea. Meanwhile, natural gas futures rose as weather forecasting models continued to call for below-normal temperatures across many densely populated US areas, spurring demand for the power-station fuel.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for delivery traded little changed at $99.58 per barrel by 13:43 GMT, losing 0.02% for the day. Prices shifted in a daily range between $100.22 and $99.25 per barrel. The US benchmark added 0.15% on Monday, a second daily gain, and settled at $99.60 a barrel.

Meanwhile on the ICE, Brent futures for settlement in the same month rose by 0.18% to $107.01 a barrel, having varied in a range between day’s high and low of $107.30 and $106.45 per barrel. The European crude benchmark lost 0.1% on Monday and closed the session at $106.81 a barrel. Brent traded at a premium of $7.20 to its US counterpart after it closed at $7.21 on Monday, down from Friday’s settlement at $7.46.

WTI crude traded little changed on Tuesday ahead a government supply report which may show a tenth consecutive weekly build up in US crude inventories. According to a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts before the release of EIA’s statistics tomorrow, US crude supplies probably rose by 2.5 million barrels in the seven days through March 21st. Motor gasoline stockpiles are expected to have fallen by 1.7 million barrels, while distillate fuel inventories, which include diesel and heating oil, have likely declined by 1.1 million barrels.

The oil market drew support after yesterday it became clear, that at their first meeting after Russia annexed Crimea last week, G-7 leaders said that they won’t attend the planned G-8 summit in Sochi and instead will hold their own meeting in June in Brussels.

Meanwhile, on the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas for delivery in April traded at $4.371 per million British thermal units at 13:45 GMT, up 2.3% on the day. Prices held in a daily range between $4.394 and $4.274 per mBtu. However, the contract registered a second weekly decline and settled last 5-day period 2.4% lower, after losing 4.4% in the previous week.

The energy source was supported by expectations for unseasonably strong natural gas and heating demand, as a cold front will lead to temperature anomalies of 15-30 °F colder-than-normal across many US regions, NatGasWeather.com reported today.

The Energy Information Administration reported last Thursday that US natural gas inventories fell by 48 billion cubic feet in the seven days through March 14th, less than analysts’ median forecast of a 58 million cubic feet drop and compared to a withdrawal of 74 billion cubic feet the same week a year ago. However, the decline exceeded the five-year average drop of 30 bcf during the comparable period.

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