BP (BP), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Exxon Mobil (XOM) reported today that they've started to shut down energy production in some Gulf of Mexico facilities as a storm system approaches the Florida coast. Non-essential personnel have been evacuated from the affected facilities, and are beginning to move back to shore. BP and COP declined to provide specific numbers, but XOM said that about 1,000 barrels of oil and 56 million cubic feet of natural gas have been shut in as a result.
Elsewhere in the energy pits, the Energy Department reported a gain of 63 billion cubic feet in natural gas inventories for the week. Analysts were expecting a rise of 58 billion to 68 billion. October natural-gas futures closed at their lowest level in over a week as the contract shed 17.2 cents, or 2.8%, to close at $6.008 per million British thermal units.
But the biggest news in commodities was the new record-high close in black gold. Crude was already soaring this week on news of an inventory decline and expectations for increased energy demand, and today's report of production interruptions added fuel to the fire (excuse the terrible pun). The October contract also experienced heavy volatility ahead of its expiration at the conclusion of today's trading. The front-month crude contract eased off its intraday high of $83.90 to close at $83.32, a gain of 1.7% for the session.