Oil traders are dealing with two heavyweight events pushing and pulling at prices simultaneously. Chaos in the Middle East, especially in Libya, is sending prices higher on the disruption of supplies. In Japan, however, a shutdown of many industries after the March 11 earthquake has diminished demand in the world's third-largest economy. In addition, the Japanese government has allowed oil companies to tap into national reserves as some parts of Japan are experiencing energy shortages.
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have said they would increase production to make up for what Libya normally produces for the European market. It takes time, however, for increased production to make it onto tanker ships and to waiting markets.
In New York Wednesday, April delivery West Texas Intermediate crude oil gained 78 cents to close at $105.75 per barrel. Home heating oil prices shed 2.12 cents to $3.0855 per gallon. Reformulated blendstock gasoline prices lost 1.68 cents to $3.0213 per gallon.
Henry Hub natural gas prices added 8.1 cents to $4.335 per million British thermal units.
At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline rose slightly overnight to $3.548 per gallon from Tuesday's $3.547, AAA said.