Market watch: Energy futures prices trend slightly higher on OPEC decision

Energy futures prices generally rose slightly higher Thursday, following the decision by ministers of OPEC to retain their current production quotas through the last quarter of this year.

Sep 20th, 2002

Sam Fletcher
OGJ Senior Writer

HOUSTON, Sept. 20 -- Energy futures prices generally rose slightly higher Thursday, following the decision by ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to retain their current production quotas through the last quarter of this year.

OPEC officials plan to meet again in December in Vienna to assess the world oil market for 2003.

The group's decision to retain current production quotas was widely anticipated and already factored into most futures markets' price calculations for oil and petroleum products. But there was some profit taking Thursday, as traders tend to buy in advance of anticipated or rumored events and to sell when those events occur.

The October contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes inched up 2¢ to $29.50/bbl Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the November position increased 7¢ to $29.74/Mcf. Unleaded gasoline for October delivery gained 0.26¢ to 80.08¢/gal. But heating oil for the same month dipped 0.1¢ to 78.81¢/gal.

The October natural gas contract continued its recent rally, up 6.9¢ to $3.86/Mcf Thursday on NYMEX, spurred by market uncertainties as Hurricane Isidore appeared headed for the gas-prone Gulf of Mexico.

Thursday's gas futures market opened higher but dropped back to $3.81/Mcf after US Energy Information Administration reported early Thursday that 69 bcf of gas was injected into US underground storage last week, "about what was expected," said analysts Friday at Enerfax Daily. Prices moved higher in afternoon trading, however.

"Prices are reaching highs not seen since June 2001 and are about 45% above early August levels," said Enerfax Daily analysts.

Hurricane Isidore was reported 100 miles south-southwest of Havana early Friday, bearing down on Cuba with sustained winds near 105 mph. It's currently classed as a moderate Category 2 storm, but officials at the National Hurricane Center said it is expected to continue into the Gulf of Mexico where it could become more intense.

In London, the November contract for North Sea Brent oil gained 6¢ to $28.38/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. However, the October natural gas contract slipped 1.3¢ to the equivalent of $2.63/Mcf on the IPE.

The average price for OPEC basket of seven benchmark crudes increased by 9¢ to $27.45/bbl Thursday.

Contact Sam Fletcher at samf@ogjonline.com

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