Oil falls after Japan quake, tsunami

Oil prices fell on Friday after a massive earthquake shook Japan, the world’s

third-largest oil consumer, sending a tsunami sweeping across

the Pacific Ocean and pushing U.S. crude prices below $100.

As the implications for oil demand in the region affected

by the earthquake received attention, investors also monitored

a planned day of demonstrations in top oil exporter Saudi

Arabia and the violence in Libya, where oil exports have been

disrupted.

Brent crude futures for April delivery LCOc1 fell $1.16

to $114.27 a barrel at 12:03 p.m. EST (1703 GMT), having fallen

as low as $112.25.

U.S. crude futures for April delivery CLc1 fell $1.80 to

$100.90 a barrel, having briefly traded at $99.01.

With the earthquake shutting some refineries in Japan,

refiner profit margins for gasoline in the United States

RB-CL=R jumped to $24.96 from $22.76 on Thursday.

The heating oil crack spread CL-HO=R rose to $26.43 a

barrel from $25.18 on Thursday.

Brent’s premium to the U.S. benchmark West Texas

Intermediate crude CL-LCO1=R rose 63 cents to $13.18 a

barrel, after falling below $8 this week and reaching a record

above $17 last week.

Metals and soft commodities also fell.

Japan was hit by a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, the largest

since observations began in the late 19th century.

While the full extend of damage was still being assessed,

analysts said the images and reports so far did not suggest a

major economic and financial disaster.

“Crude oil futures have fallen sharply as a sizable portion

of Japan’s oil refinery capacity has been shut due to the

earthquake and tsunami. Data from China showing higher

inflation also added pressure,” said Joe Posillico, broker at

MF Global in New York.

Posillico said the question going forward would be, “how

long Japan’s crude oil demand will be affected.”

Reuters