The $100-per-barrel level continued to move further out of reach for crude oil, which today dropped to its lowest point in nearly a month. January oil futures were down 4%, or $3.80, to settle at $90.62 per barrel, the lowest close for a front-month contract since October 30. Don't plan that road trip just yet, though; oil is still up 48% on a year-to-date basis.
Front-month reformulated gasoline blendstock, RBOB, dropped 9.73 cents on the day, losing 4.1%, to $2.2757 per gallon. Heating oil was down 3% today to settle at $2.5738 per gallon. December natural-gas dropped 32.7 cents to $7.23 per million British thermal units. Inventory data on natural gas hits the Street tomorrow. Analysts are expecting stocks to have dropped by 17 billion cubic feet in the last week.
Setting the stage for this pullback was this morning's inventory report from the Energy Department. Crude-oil inventories dropped by 400,000; analysts were expecting a decline of 500,00 barrels. Meanwhile, gasoline stocks were 1.4 million barrels higher during the last week. Also contributing to crude's decline were persistent rumors that OPEC will decide to pump more oil into the market when the organization convenes on December 5.
It was a rocky day in the metals neighborhood today, with gold futures sliding down almost 2% to test the psychologically significant $800 threshold. The December contract lost $13.70 to end at $800.30 an ounce. A rising dollar and falling crude took their toll on other metals as well. Silver was off 15 cents at $14.355 an ounce; platinum and palladium fell as well. The lone standout was copper, which saw its December contract settle at $3.0060 a pound, up 4.35 cents on the day.