Market watch, Dec. 18

Energy futures prices soared in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday. Weather forecasts formed the basis of trading in the highly volatile session. According to the latest US National Weather Service forecast, temperatures are expected to be below normal for the next several weeks in the US Northeast.


Weather forecasts drove energy futures prices sharply higher in volatile trading trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday.

According to the latest US National Weather Service forecast, temperatures are expected to be below normal for the next several weeks in US Northeast.

Natural gas immediately shot up on the news and trading was halted for 15 minutes during the earlier part of the session. Home heating oil, which is used as an alternate for natural gas, also benefited from the rally.

NYMEX gas for January delivery added 98.3� to end at $8.40/Mcf. January home heating oil rose 2.77� to settle at 91.66�/gal.

Heating oil led the rally for the crude oil and the gasoline markets, which have been under pressure recently because of expectations of an easing in the global supply crunch.

Unleaded gasoline for the same month jumped 1.20� to 75.67�/gal.

The January contract for light, sweet crude rose 88� to $28.87/bbl. The February contract rose 69� to $27.86.

Meanwhile in London, Brent crude oil futures closed little changed on the International Petroleum Exchange on Friday.

Brokers said the market was cautiously bearish in the light of rising stocks in Europe and the US, but lacked substantial enough fresh news to push prices either way.

February Brent, the new front month contract on the IPE, closed slightly higher on Friday at $25.89/bbl, up 36� from Thursday's close. The contract briefly breached resistance at $26, hitting $26.10 before falling back. The day's low was $25.33.

Brent prices are expected to be little changed next week, moving at $25.40-$25.90.

On the IPE, the January natural gas contract settled at the equivalent of $4.35/Mcf, down 3�.

On the Singapore Exchange, the February contract for North Sea Brent crude settled at $25.89/bbl, up 36�. The March contract closed at $25.75, up 42�.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' basket of seven crudes fell to $22.92/bbl Friday, down from $23.51.

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