Although it is widely believed the collapse of crude oil pricescould force many producers to cut back drilling plans this year,Unocal Corp. was the first company to formally confirm ityesterday. Unocal said it will prune its capital spending by about$250 million to $1.3 billion. According to CEO Roger C. Beach thecapital expenditure reductions will come in three areas: near-termproduction projects that are most heavily affected by lower currentcommodity prices, investments in non-oil and gas businesses, andlonger term exploration projects that could benefit from more dataevaluation. The move probably will not have a significant impact onUnocal’s natural gas production, a spokesman said, adding however,some associated gas production could become a casualty in thecutbacks. No specifics were available.
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The April Nymex contract gained 3.7 cents to settle Friday at$2.321, thanks to what one broker called strong fund buying.However, April may be hard pressed to add much more to that.According to the latest Commitments of Traders report,non-commercials extended their net long position by 7,649 contractsto 9,543 during the last two weeks. The broker estimates that 60%of those positions are in April, which would mean these speculatorswould have to wind out of approximately 5,700 April contractswithin the next four weeks. However, if April breaks out of itsrecent technical trading range within the next several days, it islikely funds will add to their overall long position, meaning moreselling pressure would mount on April and May as we approach theApril expiration, a source argued.