MARKET WATCH
Warmer weather deflates US energy prices

By OGJ editors

HOUSTON, Dec. 30 -- Energy prices dipped Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange as a result of warmer weather across much of the US during the holiday period.

The February contact for benchmark US light, sweet crudes lost 46¢ to $32.40/bbl Monday on NYMEX, while the March position was down by 40¢ to $32.02/bbl. On the US spot market, the cash price for West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., dropped 35¢ to $32.43/bbl.

Heating oil for January delivery declined by 0.95¢ to 90.13¢/gal on NYMEX. Unleaded gasoline for the same month slipped by 0.27¢ to 91.16¢/gal.

The January natural gas contract expired Monday at $6.15/Mcf, down by 22.9¢ for the day on NYMEX. The February natural gas contract dipped by 14.9¢ to $6.24/Mcf, with most other months remaining flat or up slightly, said analysts Tuesday at Enerfax Daily.
That market was "undermined by mostly mild weather forecast this week and sluggish industrial demand ahead of another long [New Year's] holiday weekend," they said.

"Industrial demand [for natural gas] typically slows at this time of year as many manufacturing plants, which account for more than a third of all [US] natural gas demand, shut down during the Christmas and New Year's holidays," said Enerfax analysts. "Storage inventories are still running well above year-ago levels and should be adequate to meet heating demand even during a cold winter."

The expiring January gas contract, they said, "was weighed down by a steeply discounted Henry Hub[, La., spot] cash market, almost 60¢[/Mcf] below" the near-month futures price.

In London, the February and March contracts for North Sea Brent oil each gained 25¢ to close at $29.31/bbl and $29.06/bbl, respectively, on the International Petroleum Exchange.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven benchmark crudes lost 38¢ to $29.53/bbl Monday.

NYMEX and IPE were closed Dec. 25-26 for the Christmas holiday. NYMEX will close at 1 p.m. eastern time Wednesday and will remain closed Thursday and Friday for the New Year's holiday. IPE is expected to follow a similar schedule.

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