MARKET WATCH
NYMEX crude futures climbed on inventory report

OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Dec. 26 -- Crude oil futures prices climbed on the New York Mercantile Exchange during an abbreviated pre-holiday trading session Wednesday.

Oil prices rose despite a reported buildup in crude stocks. The US Energy Information Administration Wednesday reported a 1.7 million bbl build in crude oil stocks to 274.5 million bbl for the week ended Dec. 19. That was up from the previous week but 25.3 million bbl below the 5-year average.

The American Petroleum Institute said crude stocks climbed 3.8 million bbl to 275.7 million bbl.

NYMEX was closed Thursday and Friday for the Christmas holiday. London's International Petroleum Exchange also was closed Thursday and Friday.

Energy prices
The February contract for benchmark sweet, light crudes on NYMEX Wednesday gained 91¢ to $32.86/bbl. The high for the shortened trading period was $33/bbl around midday, but the price fell by the end of the session. The March contract Wednesday rose by 85¢ to settle at $32.42.

On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., closed at $32.78/bbl Wednesday, up 93¢.

Unleaded gasoline for January delivery climbed 2.35¢ Wednesday to settle at 91.43¢/gal. EIA said the gasoline inventory rose by 600,000 bbl to 203 million bbl total. But API reported gasoline inventories down 900,000 bbl for the latest week for a total of 201.2 million bbl.

Heating oil for January gained 1.88¢ to 91.08¢/gal. EIA statistics showed that distillate inventories fell by 2.3 million bbl to 128.4 million bbl, and API said distillate inventories fell 2.5 million bbl to a total of 130.8 million.

The January natural gas contract climbed 23.6¢ to $6.379/Mcf Wednesday. EIA said natural gas storage withdrawals were 151 bcf for the week ended Dec. 19. Working gas in storage was 2.69 tcf on that date, EIA said.

"With the latest 151 bcf withdrawal, the year-over-year storage surplus declined to 159 bcf from 215 bcf in the prior week, and 190 bcf the week before. Inventories are now at a 3 bcf deficit relative to the 5-year average," said UBS Securities LLC analyst Ronald J. Barone of New York.

In London, the February contact for North Sea Brent oil gained 92¢ to $29.96/bbl Wednesday on the International Petroleum Exchange. Gas oil for January delivery held steady at $276.25/tonne. The January natural gas contract held steady at the equivalent of $5.80/Mcf on IPE.

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