NDTV - 30/3/2006
Crude oil futures pulled back in Asian trading after a 38-cent increase on the previous day on U.S. data showing a large decrease in domestic supplies of unleaded gas.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery fell 35 cents to $66.10/barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Gasoline prices slipped less than 1 cent to $1.9465 a gallon (3.8 liters) while heating oil futures also dropped less than 1 cent to $1.8460 a gallon.
Last week's decline in commercial gasoline inventories in the United States was the fourth in as many weeks, and comes as refiners conduct maintenance on their facilities ahead of the Northern Hemisphere's summer driving season.
In its weekly petroleum report Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Department said gasoline inventories fell by 5.4 million barrels last week to 216.2 million barrels, about even with year ago levels.
The agency also said that motor gasoline demand averaged 9.1 million barrels a day over the last four weeks, which is 1.3 percent above year-ago levels.
Prices also continue to respond to concerns about supplies from Nigeria and the Middle East. The outlook on Nigerian oil output remained uncertain.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC has shut in nearly half of its Nigerian production and says it won't resume operations until the country is safe enough for its workers.
Iran, the No. 2 oil producer in OPEC, also remains a potential source of concern.
It has been referred to the U.N. Security Council over fears it may want to misuse its nuclear program to make weapons, but the council has been at loggerheads over U.S.-led efforts to ratchet up the pressure on Tehran.