MARKET WATCH: January gas contract tops $6/MMbtu

Sam Fletcher
OGJ Senior Writer

HOUSTON, Dec. 29 -- The January natural gas contract—due to expire at the close of today’s trading session—inched above $6/MMbtu in intraday trading Dec. 28 on the New York market.

The front-month crude contract topped $79/bbl in intraday trading, up 1% “as the dollar's rally stalled and weather conditions helped demand for heating fuels,” said analysts in the Houston office of Raymond James & Associates Inc. “Both heating oil and gasoline's January futures contracts posted gains,” they said, adding, “The National Weather Service's 8-14 day outlook is forecasting colder-than-normal conditions across the eastern half of the country, which should continue to provide upward support for prices.”

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index gained 0.4% to a seasonally adjusted reading of 145.36 in October—its fifth consecutive monthly increase.

In other news, Raymond James analysts cited an article from The Australian quoting claims by Toreador Resources Corp. officials that the Paris basin “could be another Williston basin in the making,” potentially yielding 65 billion bbl of shale oil through application of hydraulic fracturing technology that has proved so successful in the US. Toreador has secured the rights to drill 750,000 acres in the basin that stretches across France and that has produced small amounts of oil via conventional methods. “Come to think of it, the Eiffel Tower looks a lot like an oil rig,” said Raymond James analysts. Veterans of the annual Offshore Technology Conference in Houston may recall several years ago an OTC exhibitor sold samples of some of the first oil produced from beneath Paris in the late 20th century—in glass containers in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

Energy prices
The February contract for benchmark US sweet, light crudes traded as high as $79.12/bbl Dec. 28 on the New York Mercantile Exchange before closing at $78.77/bbl, up 72¢ for the day. The March contract gained 79¢ to $79.45/bbl. On the US spot market, West Texas Intermediate at Cushing, Okla., climbed $1.72 to $78.77/bbl, back in step with the closing price for the front-month futures market contract. Heating oil for January delivery rose 3.79¢ to $2.07/gal on NYMEX. Reformulated blend stock for oxygenate blending for the same month was up 2.88¢ to $2.02/gal.

The January contract for natural gas jumped 34.7¢ to close at $5.99/MMbtu on NYMEX. On the US spot market, gas at Henry Hub, La., advanced 10¢ to $5.88/MMbtu.

In London, the February IPE contract for North Sea Brent gained $1.01 to $77.32/bbl. Gas oil for January was up $20.75 to $627.75/tonne.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes increased to $74.83/bbl on Dec. 28 from a revised Dec. 24 price of $74.33/bbl.

Contact Sam Fletcher at samf@ogjonline.com.

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