Market watch: Energy prices rise as traders look to OPEC meeting

Energy futures prices generally strengthened Tuesday as traders looked for signals of a possible reduction of production quotas by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at its Dec. 28 meeting in Cairo.

By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, Dec. 19 -- Energy futures prices generally strengthened Tuesday as traders looked for signals of a possible reduction of production quotas by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries at its Dec. 28 meeting in Cairo.

The January contract for benchmark US light, sweet crudes rose 14¢ to $19.36/bbl on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while the February position was up 8¢ to $19.60/bbl.

Both contracts continued to gain to $19.62/bbl and $19.87/bbl respectively in after-hours electronic trading, following the release late Tuesday of a bullish report on US petroleum inventories by the American Petroleum Institute.

The API said US inventories of distillates decreased by a little more than 3 million bbl last week, while stocks of unleaded gasoline were down 815,000 bbl. US crude inventories increased by 2.57 million bbl, however.

In its monthly statistical report issued early Wednesday, API said total petroleum product deliveries, a measure of consumer demand, declined in November for the sixth time in the past 7 months. However, it said, November gasoline deliveries increased 2.2% over year-ago levels.

API attributed that increased demand to a 23% drop in gasoline retail prices compared to November 2000, along with a decrease of more than 40¢/gal since the beginning of September. It was the most rapid price decline for any November in the past 10 years, API reported.

Unleaded gasoline for January delivery gained 0.49¢ to 55.04¢/gal Tuesday on the NYMEX. Home heating oil for the same month was up 0.88¢ to 54.69¢/gal. The January natural gas contract lost 2.9¢ to $2.66/Mcf, however.

In London, the February contract for North Sea Brent oil rose 12¢ to $19.18/bbl while the March position slipped by 3¢ to $19.05/bbl on the International Petroleum Exchange.

The January natural gas contract plunged 20¢ to the equivalent of $4.13/Mcf Tuesday, wiping out most of Monday's gain on the IPE.

The average price for OPEC's basket of seven benchmark crudes gained 10¢ to $17.57/bbl Tuesday.

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