Updated from 11:46 a.m. ESTCrude oil futures lost ground Monday despite the cold snap, as traders focused on forecasts of milder than previously anticipated weather. Prices for March delivery of light sweet crude lost 82 cents to close at $52.58 a barrel on the Nymex. Other parts of the energy complex were mixed. Near-dated natural gas futures added 43 cents to $7.32 per million British thermal units. Heating oil was unchanged at $1.51 a gallon, and gasoline was off 2 cents at $1.38 a gallon. The temperature won't be quite as cold as first thought in the coming days, says Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at IDEAglobal in New York. He says the improved outlook would reduce demand for heating fuels. "At this juncture inventories are far too large and demand is not sufficient to send the price of oil north of $60 anytime soon." Earlier in the session, traders focused on parts of the West, which were getting an unusual cold blast. Temperatures were down in the teens in Arizona and as low as zero in Nevada, according to Weather.com. "The extra demand is unlikely to be enough to cut inventories really sharply," notes Tobin Gorey, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, in a recent market brief. The weather aside, technical analysts were seeing a bullish tilt to the coming week. "Weekly candle chart analysis in West Texas Intermediate oil shows
In candlestick chart analysis, a hammer occurs when the price of a security dips significantly lower than its opening price, but rallies later in the same period and ends close to or above the opening price. Turning to the energy patch, Lehman Brothers upgraded shares of Murphy Oil ( MUR) to overweight from equal-weight, helping lift the shares 2.3%. RBC Capital Markets and AG Edwards both initiated coverage of Atlas Energy Resources ( ATN) with buy ratings. The stock rose 1.1%. Elsewhere, the U.S. Oil ( USO) exchange-traded fund fell 1.3%, while the iPath Goldman Sachs Crude Oil ( OIL) ETF was down by 1.4%. Major producer Exxon Mobil ( XOM) was off 0.9%, and Chevron ( CVX) was lower by 1.5%.