Oil futures prices fell Wednesday, but some observers said it was only a technical and temporary downturn. Gasoline and heating oil were off sharply, but crude oil held above $18 a barrel.
On other markets, livestock, meat, grain and soybeans were mostly lower. Precious metals also were off slightly.
Heating oil led the decline in energy futures at the New York Mercantile Exchange because of a surplus of supplies, particularly in the central states, said Peter Beutel, an analyst in Elders Futures Inc.
Another analyst, Edward Dellamonte of Prudential-Bache Securities in New York, said the retreat was caused strictly by technical market factors.
"The plunge doesn't reflect anything fundamental at the moment," he said.
"Looking down the road several months, we might have prices this low or lower, but there's certainly nothing fundamental in the market to justify the losses today," he said.
Some milder weather in the North and industry data showing some increases in crude oil and gasoline stocks were not important enough to have moved prices significantly, he said.