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Energy Complex Collects Gains

Position-squaring ahead of the long weekend pushes prices higher.

Updated from 12:01 p.m. EST

Energy futures performed strongly Friday following a volatile session that saw crude oil slump nearly $1.30 before rebounding late.

Light, sweet crude oil finished up $1.40 to $59.39 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil was up 4 cents to $1.67 a gallon.

Gasoline settled 5 cents higher at $1.65 a gallon, and natural gas ended the day up 20 cents to $7.50 per million British thermal units.

The market will be closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday, and that contributed to the day's action.

The energy sector's advance was largely due to technical trading. "The whole market is up on position-squaring ahead of the long weekend," says Addison Armstrong, director of market research at TFS Energy Futures in Stamford, Conn. "Even though electronic trading is available after normal trading hours, it is always dangerous to be short over a long weekend," Armstrong says.

Despite crude oil's late-day reversal Thursday, "we think the short-term directional bias remains to the downside," wrote Edward Meir, energy analyst at Man Financial, in a research report. "Warmer weather forecasts should turn into reality by the middle of next week, and more importantly, OPEC will not be hanging over the markets with looming cuts (or meetings), as it has done in the past," Meir wrote.

Energy equities were mixed on the day. Utility operator

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CH Energy


declined by $1.16 to $49.69 after it was downgraded to a buy from a strong buy rating. The company announced on Wednesday that its fourth-quarter profit fell 17%.

The stock of

Teekay LNG Partners

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finished 12 cents higher to $36.80 even though Citi downgraded it to a hold from a buy. The iPath Goldman Sachs Crude Oil

(OIL) - Get iPath Series B S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETN Report

ETF advanced 2.2% to $36.34.