Oil drops to near $95 as trading is muted on US public holiday

Benchmark oil for February delivery down 41 cents

BANGKOK—Crude prices fell as energy investors kept to the sidelines Monday ahead of a public holiday in the US. Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 41 cents to US$95.08 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 7 cents to finish at $95.56 per barrel on the Nymex on January 18.

Ken Hasegawa, energy analyst at Newedge brokerage in Tokyo, said trading was muted ahead of the US holiday and in the absence of major news that might have the potential to move markets. Lingering concerns about the US economy also weighed on crude prices, with lawmakers wrangling over spending cuts and the nation’s debt ceiling, which limits the amount of debt that US government can take on.

Even if Congress raises the debt ceiling, Republican lawmakers will likely demand deep spending cuts, which in the short term could slow the global economy.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 30 cents to $111.63 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

  • Natural gas was up 9 cents to $3.584 per 1,000 cubic feet;
  • Wholesale gasoline rose 2.1 cents to $2.803 a gallon; and
  • Heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.035 a gallon.