1 Jan 2009

Oil price jumps 14%, but falls year-on-year

4:32 pm on 1 January 2009

US crude oil rose 14% on the final trading day of 2008 in thin pre-holiday trade, tracking a jump in gasoline as a slowdown in refinery activity in the United States sparked fears of tightening fuel supply in winter.

US crude oil futures for February settled up $US5.57 to $US44.60 per barrel, but were down 54% from the $US95.98 on the last day in 2007.

London Brent settled up $US5.44 at $US45.59.

Last year saw record high prices in July above $US147 a barrel crash to the year's low of $US32.40 on 19 December as the global recession dissolved world demand.

Weekly US inventory data on Wednesday showed a decline in refinery activity and a 500,000 barrel rise in crude stocks, compared with forecasts for a 1.5 million barrel decrease.

Inventories of refined products also rose, though less than analysts had expected.

Gasoline stockpiles increased by 800,000 barrels, less than forecasts for a 1.5 million barrel build, while distillates rose by 700,000 barrels, below expectations for a 1.1 million barrel increase.

Demand for both gasoline and distillates, which include heating oil, was lower than the same time a year ago, extending the trend for reduced consumption.