Oil prices were $58 US a barrel Thursday after a steep drop the previous day when OPEC said energy demand was weakening and the U.S. government said domestic supplies were rising.
The price on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 66 cents to $58.31 a barrel for March delivery of light, sweet crude. The contract had fallen by almost $2 a barrel on Wednesday, while Brent crude futures rose 50 cents to $58.65 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Gasoline increased 3 cents to $1.4175 a gallon while heating oil rose 1.5 cents to $1.6236 a gallon. Natural gas increased 13 cents to $7.200 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Crude futures had plunged by more than $4 until the rebound on Thursday since the start of the week, settling below $58 a barrel on Wednesday for the first time in nearly two months. Concerns in the oil market about Iran, OPEC’s No. 2 producer, have dissipated somewhat but have not entirely disappeared, and analysts say the mid-winter price drop could easily be followed by an early spring rally.
The U.S. Energy Department reported that gasoline demand over the past four weeks was 1.8 percent higher than a year ago, while jet fuel demand over the same period was close to one percent higher.