Crude oil accelerated its slide Monday amid a broad-based commodities sell-off. Light, sweet crude for May delivery dropped $4.04 to settle at $101.58...
NEW YORK — Crude oil accelerated its slide Monday amid a broad-based commodities sell-off.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery dropped $4.04 to settle at $101.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, adding to a decline of nearly $2 a barrel Friday.
Even so, prices finished the first three months of the year 5.8 percent higher than where they started. Crude set a record of $111.80 in March before giving ground.
Monday’s drop came as traders sold off a wide range of commodities, from precious metals and gasoline to pork bellies and soybeans at the end of the first quarter.
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The price of gold, for instance, sank $14.40 to settle at $916.20 on the Nymex.
Speculators have poured money into commodities in recent weeks as a hedge against inflation and a weakening dollar, which neared its all-time low against the euro Monday.
But traders unwound some of those deals as the quarter came to a close and contracts for heating oil expired.
Market observers said investors may have sold to settle future positions and lock in profits, or were simply holding back in the absence of headlines that would entice fresh buying.
“We’ve seen some … air come out of the bubble,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago. “We may see some confidence return to the dollar, and all this money that embraced commodities as a hedge could go away.”
Not all commodities fell, however. Natural gas was one of the few to buck the downward trend, jumping 30.1 cents to settle at $10.101 per 1,000 cubic feet on the Nymex.
Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Ill., attributed the gain to cold weather earlier in the year. Supplies of the heating, cooking and power-generation fuel typically increase at this time of year as warmer springtime temperatures slow demand.
“That process is going to be delayed this year due to the cold weather,” he said. “We’ve virtually erased a huge supply surplus that existed at the beginning of winter.”
The dollar sank as low as $1.5895 against the 15-nation euro — just shy of its March 17 record of $1.5904 — before strengthening to $1.5871 later in the day.