Most petroleum futures contracts moved higher again Thursday, casting confusing signals about the direction that energy prices are taking.
There seemed to be general agreement among industry observers that price advances Wednesday and Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange were technical market adjustments amid growing gasoline surpluses and other bearish fundamental signs.
With industry data last Tuesday showing the fifth consecutive weekly buildup in gasoline stocks, "the bad news was finally out," said Richard Marose, an analyst in Chicago with Geldermann Inc. "The shorts (traders with an excess of sales over purchases) cashed in their chips."
The news can't get any worse, Marose said, but with crude oil in the $13-a-barrel range, an argument can be made that it will drop by $5 or advance by that amount.
However, he said, there's a growing consensus that crude oil will move up into the $15 to $20-a-barrel range.
"But there will probably be only limited success in moving the market either way until after the OPEC meeting."