Oil drops to near $102 ahead of Iran nuclear talks
SINGAPORE — Oil prices fell to near $102 a barrel Monday in Asia amid hopes international talks this week may help avoid military action over Iran’s nuclear program.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was down $1.30 to $102.01 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added $1.84 to settle at $103.31 in New York on Thursday. The global oil market was closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.
Brent crude for May delivery was down 97 cents at $122.46 per barrel in London.
On Sunday, Iran state television said negotiations with the U.S., China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany over the country’s nuclear program are scheduled to begin Friday in Istanbul. Fears that an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by Israel or the U.S. would disrupt global crude supplies have helped push oil prices up from $75 in October.
Crude has fallen from $110 last month amid signs of weak consumer demand in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer. Crude inventories have jumped more than expected the last two weeks, and the U.S. government said Friday that the economy added 120,000 jobs in March, fewer than analysts expected.
“A down trend across the energy market could extend across this entire quarter,” energy trader and consultant Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.
Investors will be closely watching the beginning of first quarter corporate earnings results for clues about the strength of the U.S. economy. Aluminum maker Alcoa, tech giant Google and J.P. Morgan bank are scheduled to report this week.
In other energy trading, heating oil was down 1.6 cents at $3.15 per gallon and gasoline futures slid 2.6 cents to $3.31 per gallon. Natural gas fell 1.5 cents to $2.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.