Crude ends higher as Bernanke view lifts markets

NEW YORK Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:31pm EDT

1 of 4. A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London in this April 18, 2006 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude futures edged up on Monday as comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reinforced expectations that interest rates will be kept low and as strong gasoline futures provided lift to the oil complex.

Bernanke said the U.S. economy needs to grow more quickly to bring the unemployment rate down further, defending the central bank's policy of very low interest rates.

While he gave no indication the Fed intended to start on a third round of bond purchases, Bernanke also made clear the central bank is in no rush to reverse course after responding aggressively to a deep recession.

Bernanke's comments weighed on the dollar by reinforcing hopes for more quantitative easing and lessening expectations that interest rates might be raised any time soon.

Ahead of weekly reports on U.S. oil inventories, crude stocks were expected to have risen last week, a Reuters survey of analysts showed on Monday.

Distillate inventories were expected to be unchanged, while gasoline stocks were forecast to be lower as refiners draw down winter grade fuel ahead of summer.

FUNDAMENTALS

* On the New York Mercantile Exchange, May crude rose 16 cents, or 0.15 percent, to settle at $107.03 a barrel, having traded from $106.19 to $107.32.

* NYMEX April RBOB gasoline rose 3.14 cents, or 0.93 percent, to settle at $3.4166 a gallon, the highest settlement since closing at $3.4648 on April 29, 2011.

* NYMEX April heating oil rose 1.87 cents, or 0.58 percent, to settle at $3.2288 a gallon.

* ConocoPhillips (COP.N) reported flaring that exceeded its permits at its 238,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Bayway refinery in Linden, New Jersey, after an upset in the fluid catalytic cracking unit over the weekend, according to a filing with state regulators.

* Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) shut a hydrocracker unit (HCU) at its 292,000-bpd Port Arthur, Texas, refinery for a planned catalyst changeout, the company said.

* Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.L) said a small fire at its 412,000 bpd Rotterdam Pernis refinery on Monday did not impact production and no one was injured.

* Speculators trimmed back their net long positions in Brent crude oil futures and options in the week to March 20, while cutting back on gas oil, IntercontinentalExchange (ICE.N) data showed.

* South Sudan hopes to resolve a row over oil and other outstanding issues with Sudan within a month or two, South Sudan's top negotiator said on Saturday.

* Flint Hills Resources' FHR.UL 290,078-bpd Corpus Christi, Texas, refinery shut a coking unit and attempted to restart a hydrofluoric acid alkylation unit in the West Plant on Friday, according to a notice the refinery filed with Texas pollution regulators.

MARKETS NEWS

* Copper started the week on solid footing, rallying the most in more than two weeks as the dollar weakened after remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reaffirmed the U.S. central bank's accommodative monetary stance. <MET/L>

* Gold rose around 1.5 percent in heavy trading, notching its biggest one-day gain in a month as renewed hopes for further U.S. monetary easing fueled bullion buying as a hedge against long-term inflation and economic uncertainty. <GOL/>

* The S&P 500 rebounded from its worst week so far this year to retake a four-year high after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled supportive monetary policy will remain even though the job picture has begun to improve. .N

UPCOMING DATA/EVENTS

* American Petroleum Institute oil inventory data due at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT) on Tuesday.

* U.S. Energy Information Administration oil inventory data due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Wednesday.

* U.S. initial jobless claims weekly data due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) on Thursday.

* U.S. Energy Information Administration natural gas storage data due at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT) on Thursday.

SETTLE NET PCT LOW HIGH CURRENT DAY AGO

CHNG CHNG VOL VOL CLc1 107.03 0.16 0.2% 106.19 107.32 152,975 260,269 CLc2 107.55 0.20 0.2% 106.70 107.81 38,236 59,973 LCOc1 125.65 0.52 0.4% 124.58 125.89 123,685 207,429 RBc1 3.4166 0.0314 0.9% 3.3760 3.4183 20,477 37,514 RBc2 3.3987 0.0298 0.9% 3.3586 3.3998 43,590 52,671 HOc1 3.2288 0.0187 0.6% 3.1982 3.23 29,021 33,869 HOc2 3.2465 0.0218 0.7% 3.2137 3.2480 51,104 55,814

TOTAL MARKET VOLUME OPEN INTEREST

CURRENT Mar 23 30D AVG Mar 23 NET CHNG

CRUDE 267,714 500,553 662,598 1,551,662 1,560

RBOB 123,662 149,527 143,998 380,676 -4,991

HO 127,814 138,256 142,045 290,696 -714

(Reporting by Robert Gibbons; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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