HOUSTON, Dec. 20 -- Crude futures prices fell Dec. 19 for the fourth consecutive session on the New York market as forecasts of moderate weather later this month fanned traders' fears of reduced demand for energy.
The US Weather Bureau is forecasting higher-than-normal temperatures across the Great Plains and parts of the Midwest Dec. 24-29. However, demand for heating oil in the Northeast US, the world's biggest market for that product, should be 2% above normal "through Dec. 23," said analysts at Enerfax Daily.
Meanwhile, the US Minerals Management Service reported Dec. 19 that 104 offshore platforms still are not operable in the federal sector of the Gulf of Mexico. Shut-in production includes 414,495 b/d, or 27.6%, of the crude, and 2 bcfd, or 20.1%, of the natural gas produced daily from those waters. Cumulative production lost Aug. 26-Dec. 19 totaled 104.6 million bbl of crude and 541.1 bcf of natural gas. That's 19.1% of the crude and 14.8% of the gas produced annually from federal leases in the gulf, officials said.
The January contract for benchmark US sweet, light crudes fell by 72¢ to $57.34/bbl Dec. 19 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The February contract dropped by $1 to $58.05/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., lost 72¢ to $57.35/bbl. Gasoline for January delivery plunged by 4.2¢ to $1.53/gal on NYMEX. Heating oil for the same month slipped by 2.87¢ to $1.70/gal.
However, the January natural gas contact jumped by 41¢ to $14.04/MMbtu on NYMEX, "as short-covering by [investment] funds drove the market higher even with forecasts for milder weather," Enerfax analysts said. It was the only front-month energy commodity to post a gain.
In London, the February contract for North Sea Brent crude plunged by $1.02 to $56.11/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. Gas oil for January dropped $14 to $501.25/tonne.
The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of 11 benchmark crudes fell by $1.63 to $51.62/bbl on Dec. 19.
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