Crude oil plummeted nearly 9% on Monday amid further concerns over energy demands. Light sweet crude for May delivery dropped $4.45 to $45.88 per barrel, posting its lowest close in five weeks and falling below a trading range that lasted nearly a month. Oil dropped as low as $45.50 during intraday trading.
The May contract is set to expire on Tuesday. The more-actively June crude oil finished at $48.51, down $3.96.
Bank of America led stocks lower despite reporting fourth quarter earnings that exceeded analyst estimates, as the financial services giant also took a substantial $13.4 billion provision for loan losses.
The dollar rallied to a monthly-high against the euro and also rebounded against the sterling on Friday in New York. Commodities often move opposite the dollar because of their hedge appeal.
Oil finished moderately higher on Friday, but still closed the week down $1.84.
Traders awaited the Energy Information Administration's weekly inventory report on Wednesday. Last week's data showed crude oil inventories increased by 5.6 million barrels for the week ended April 10. Experts were looking for a build of 2.5 million barrels. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 900,000 barrels last week, which was generally in-line with analysts' expectations of a 960,000 drop.
On the economic front, the Conference Board said its leading economic index fell 0.3 percent in March following a revised 0.2 percent decrease in February. The agency noted that the index has not risen in the past nine months.
The economic calendar remains light tomorrow as traders await key housing reports later in the week. Instead, earnings news will attract attention with IBM (IBM) expected to report after the bell today and Merck (MRK) and Yahoo (YHOO) headlining tomorrow's calendar.
Gasoline prices averaged $2.058 per regular unleaded gallon, according to AAA's latest data. This remains above last month's mark of $1.95 and well-below the year-ago level of $3.491.
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