SINGAPORE – NYMEX crude futures fell to session lows in ACCESS trade on Friday after a Venezuelan general said President Hugo Chavez had been ousted, prompting speculation of an end to a strike by oil workers, which had crimped exports.
Prompt May crude was trading at the intra-day low at $24.52 a barrel at 10:56 p.m. EDT, 47 cents down from Thursday's settlement in New York.
National Guard General Alberto Camacho Kairuz said on local television that the government had "abandoned its functions" and Venezuela was under the control of the armed forces.
Earlier senior military officials called for Chavez to resign after at least 10 people were killed and more than 80 injured in violence during a huge anti-Chavez march.
Camacho said he did not know the exact whereabouts of Chavez, who has come under increasing pressure since workers at state oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela began protests six weeks ago against a management shake up.
Business and labor leaders this week called for an indefinite national strike against Chavez.
Crude output at the world's fourth biggest oil exporter has been cut by as much as 20 percent from about 2.6 million barrels per day in March. Refinery production also was disrupted.
"This should mean that the strike is over and greater availability of spot crude on the market," Simon Games-Thomas at NM Rothschild & Sons in Sydney told Reuters by telephone.
"But this also brings into question Venezuela's OPEC quota compliance. Historically it has a poor track record of quota compliance before Chavez came to power," he said.
Last year Venezuela exported nearly 1.3 million bpd of crude and more than 250,000 bpd of refined products to the United States, about 13 percent of imports into the world's biggest oil consumer.
NYMEX heating oil futures was 0.56 cents off at 64.15 cents a gallon, while May unleaded gasoline was down 0.97 cents at 77.90 cents a gallon.