World crude oil prices rose Friday, the most active day of a slow week as traders closed out positions in preparation for the New Year's holiday and the United Nations' Jan. 15 deadline for Iraqi forces to withdraw from Kuwait neared.
Futures contracts for February delivery of West Texas Intermediate, the key U.S. crude, climbed 56 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange, to end the week at $27.57 a barrel.Contracts for unleaded gasoline for immediate delivery followed the rising crude price, up 0.92 cent to 69.56 cents a gallon.
But heating oil fell 1.1 cents a gallon to settle at 79.78 cents a gallon as a long streak of unseasonably warm weather in the Northeastern United States appeared likely to resume.
Also, traders who previously had been more bullish on heating oil adjusted their positions in the No. 2 heating oil that also doubles as diesel fuel, analysts said.
In spot markets around the world, prices for crude oil for immediate delivery also moved up.
United Arab Emirates' Dubai light - the main OPEC crude - gained 55 cents to close at $23.65 a barrel on the spot market.
Likewise, on the U.S. Gulf Coast, West Texas Intermediate rose 55 cents to $27.55 a barrel.
And in European spot trading, Britain's North Sea Brent, the world's most widely-traded crude oil, rose 30 cents a barrell to $27.65 a barrel.
An estimated 40,000 barrels of crude traded hands on the New York Merc, below the daily average of about 60,000 contracts for the year but high for a week punctuated by the Christmas holiday and the year-end closing of accounts, traders said.
Crude "traded around $27 all week and this close above $27.45 puts it in a very positive light for a move to the upside" in coming trading sessions, said Rodney Dow of Dow International Energy, a Merc floor broker.
With the end of the year approaching, traders are beginning to take more seriously the likelihood that American troops will initiate hostilities in the Arabian Peninsula sometime around the Jan. 15 deadline set by the United Nation's, Dow said.
"We're looking at 15 days coming on pretty fast after Jan. 1," Dow said. "I think there's plenty of crude out there but the market is hyped. Saddam (Hussein) was talking about nerve warfare, using biological warfare, the (U.S.) State Department feels he may have it available to him so it's that kind of hype that's got the market going," Dow said.