Market Watch, Aug. 28

International energy futures prices inched up Friday as traders continued to worry about lower-than-normal fuel inventories.


International energy futures prices inched up Friday as traders continued to worry about lower-than-normal fuel inventories.

The October contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes gained 40� to $32.03/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the November contract was up 14� to $31.23/bbl.

However, in after-hours electronic trading today, the October position retreated to $31.96/bbl.

Friday, the September contract for home heating oil popped up 1.61� to 96.94�/gal on the NYMEX. Unleaded gasoline for the same month gained 0.38� to 95.41�/gal.

The September natural gas contract rose by 8.8� to $4.63/Mcf.

In London, the October contract for North Sea Brent oil closed at $30.39/bbl, up 4� for the day, while the November contract gained 15� to $30.08/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange. The September contract for natural gas lost 2� to the equivalent of $2.43/Mcf on the IPE, however.

Markets were unfazed Friday by reports that other major consumers�including Japan and Australia�had joined the US in asking for a production increase from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. So far, OPEC has resisted such pressure, claiming that current production levels may not be responsible for recent higher prices.

However, Nigerian President Olusegun Obsanjo said over the weekend he would ensure that oil price stability is one of the main topics of discussion at the meeting of OPEC heads of state in late September in Caracas, Venezuela.

That will be the second meeting of the heads of OPEC member countries since the organization was established in 1960. The first gathering was in 1975.

The average price for OPEC's basket of seven crudes jumped by $1.30 to $30.44/bbl Friday.

That basket price averaged $29.26/bbl last week, up from $28.63 the previous week.

So far this year, OPEC has collected an average price of $26.61/bbl for its oil, including averages of $27.94/bbl in July and $29.12/bbl in June.

That far exceeds its average prices of $17.47/bbl in 1999 and $12.28/bbl in 1998.

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