Market watch, Jan. 15

Energy futures prices climbed in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday. The crude and product markets rose on increasing expectations of a larger production cut by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at its ministerial meeting to be held in Vienna on Wednesday.


Energy futures prices climbed in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday.

The crude and product markets rose on increasing expectations of a larger production cut by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at its ministerial meeting to be held in Vienna on Wednesday. There appeared, from pre-meeting statements by oil ministers, to be unanimous support for a cut of at least 1 million b/d.

The February NYMEX contract for light, sweet crude advanced 64� to settle at $30.05/bbl, while the March contract rose 54� to $28.76.

Refined petroleum products also closed higher on the NYMEX, with February home heating oil edging up by 0.2� to finish at 84.21�/gal, while unleaded gasoline for the same month jumped by 1.23� to settle at 90.08�.

NYMEX natural gas for February delivery slumped by 23.6� to rest at $8.47/Mcf.

United States Energy Sec. Bill Richardson last week met OPEC Conference Pres. Chakib Khelil to discuss the oil supply and demand situation.

Apparently, Richardson was unable to convince Khelil, who is also the Algerian energy and mines minister, not to cut output.

Richardson said Khelil remained noncommittal in the meeting.

Richardson is scheduled to meet with officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Venezuela during the next few days to attempt to persuade them not to cut output, a move not expected to bring much results, according to analysts.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has started informing its customers about its plans to cut production in February�a sign, traders said, of the decision to come at this week's OPEC meeting.

In London Friday, North Sea Brent crude oil futures closed firmer on the International Petroleum Exchange, and remained comfortably above the $25.50/bbl mark.

Brokers said the market was expecting OPEC to cut production this week by at least 1 million b/d, probably 1.5 million b/d, which should see prices maintained at $25-$27/bbl through the first quarter.

Prices may not move much when OPEC's actual decision is announced, brokers said, since the expectation of a cut had already been factored into the market.

On Friday, IPE February Brent futures settled at $25.75/bbl, up by 14� from the previous close. The day's high was $25.85 and the low $25.59.

On the IPE, the February natural gas contract closed at the equivalent of $4.19/Mcf, up 13�.

OPEC's basket of seven crudes stood at $24.43/bbl Friday, compared with $24.23 the previous day.

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