Market Watch�oil futures prices climb

Oil futures prices continued to climb in volatile trading, hitting the $30/bbl mark at one point Friday with sustained speculation of tighter supplies in the face of growing demand. But the market cooled slightly with a statement by Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's deputy energy minister, that recent bullish trading activity was basically a speculative bubble.


Oil futures prices continued to climb in volatile trading, hitting the $30/bbl mark at one point Friday with sustained speculation of tighter supplies in the face of growing demand. But the market cooled slightly with a statement by Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's deputy energy minister, that recent bullish trading activity was basically a speculative bubble, without any basis in market realities. Luis Tellez, Mexico's energy minister, expressed a similar view.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery closed at $29.62/bbl Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 51�/bbl for the day. The July contract rose 45� to $29.39/bbl.

Refined petroleum products were mixed, with June home heating oil losing 0.48� to close at 76.83�/gallon. But unleaded gasoline rose 0.4� to 94.04�/gallon, pulled along by the rise in oil prices.

NYMEX natural gas for June delivery edged up 0.2� to end the week at $3.35/MMbtu.

OPEC's average price for a basket of seven crudes increased to $26.28/bbl last week, up from $24.30/bbl in the first week of May. Through last week, the OPEC secretariat reported, that basket price has averaged $25.35/bbl for the year.

The average for April was $22.93/bbl, down from $26.71/bbl in March and $26.84/bbl in February. During the first quarter of this year, the basket price averaged $26.11/bbl, up from $23.41/bbl in the final quarter of 1999.

During all of 1999, the basket price averaged $17.47/bbl, up from an average $12.28/bbl in 1998.

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