NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude futures fell on Thursday for the second straight session as increasing talk from consumer nations about a possible strategic oil reserves release and rising crude oil stockpiles in the United States prompted end-of-quarter selling.
France believes there is a good chance of a U.S.-Europe accord on the release of strategic oil reserves, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Thursday.
He was commenting in an interview on France Inter state radio and Fillon’s remarks came after French ministers revealed on Wednesday that Paris was in talks with the United States and Britain on a possible release of strategic oil stocks.
The increased chatter about reserves releases comes as the West tightens sanctions on Iran in an effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program and as many consuming countries scramble to find alternatives to Iranian crude oil.
A European Union embargo on Iranian crude is slated to start July 1.
Also pressuring oil prices ahead of Friday’s last trading day of the first quarter was the lingering effect of Wednesday’s report that showed U.S. crude stocks rose by 7.1 million barrels last week, much more than expected. <EIA/S>
Gasoline inventories declined by a more-than-expected 3.54 million barrels and distillate stocks fell 700,000 barrels, the report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
Front-month April RBOB gasoline showed some resilience ahead of Friday’s contract expiry, managing a 0.51 cent rise.
April heating oil fell 1.53 percent, nearly 5 cents.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, May crude fell $2.63, or 2.5 percent, to settle at $102.78 a barrel, having traded from $102.13 to $105.70.
U.S. Democrats unveiled a bill that would ban the export of refined fuels derived from oil produced on federal lands, the latest legislative volley in response to surging fuel prices.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is concerned by high oil prices and is ready to respond if market conditions warrant action, the agency said after 28 member country energy experts met on Thursday.
The euro fell against the dollar and the yen with investors expressing caution ahead of Spain’s budget presentation at the end of the week amid concerns about the euro zone’s sovereign debt crisis. <USD/>
Copper steadied, setting the market up for a 10 percent increase this quarter as signs of physical tightness helped to underpin prices of the industrial metal even as doubts over demand in top consumer China lingered. <MET/L>
Gold prices slid more than 1 percent as a break higher in the dollar and a drop in oil prices pushed gold through key support near the $1,655 an ounce level, prompting further liquidation. <GOL/>
NYMEX April RBOB gasoline, heating oil contracts expiration on Friday.
U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission positions data due at 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT) on Friday.
CHNG CHNG VOL VOL CLc1 102.78 -2.63 -2.5% 102.13 105.70 305,471 309,064 CLc2 103.31 -2.65 -2.5% 102.65 106.23 74,551 85,596 LCOc1 122.39 -1.77 -1.4% 121.37 124.64 218,727 212,669 RBc1 3.4006 0.0051 0.2% 3.3726 3.4455 17,784 39,943 RBc2 3.3397 -0.0224 -0.7% 3.3136 3.3925 69,769 75,978 HOc1 3.1589 -0.0490 -1.5% 3.1437 3.23 9,173 21,133 HOc2 3.1698 -0.0524 -1.6% 3.1533 3.2425 59,368 54,611
CURRENT Mar 28 30D AVG Mar 28 NET CHNG
RBOB 207,297 204,973 145,134 362,898 -5,927
HO 144,617 135,425 140,942 283,395 -5,193
Reporting by Robert Gibbons; Editing by David Gregorio