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Crude Oil still Stuck at $80; Natural Gas Falls Below $4

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Oil Market Summary for 03/22/2010 to 03/26/2010

Crude oil prices still found stubborn resistance above the $80-a-barrel level amid concerns about demand while natural gas continued its decline, to below $4 per million British thermal units, as burgeoning supply from unconventional sources depressed prices.

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The natural gas Henry Hub benchmark futures settled Friday at a nearly six-month low of $3.87, down 31% so far this year from above $6 in January. Natural gas demand experiences a lull at this time of the year as warmer weather reduces heating use but the need for more electricity from gas-fired plants to power air conditioners is still weeks away.

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Increased production of shale and other unconventional gas in the U.S. has pushed down prices. Rig counts have been increasing in spite of the slack off in demand, though the decline in prices has already prompted Chesapeake Energy, a major producer of shale gas, to consider suspension of production at some rigs.

Crude oil futures declined for the third day in a row on Friday after the U.S. Commerce Department revised its estimate for fourth-quarter GDP growth downwards, to a 5.6% annual rate from 5.9% previously, adding to concerns about demand for oil.

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Gains by the euro against the dollar on Friday after European Union leaders once again affirmed their readiness to stand by Greece during its fiscal crisis were not sufficient to offset the bearish sentiment regarding oil demand.

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