Crude futures hit an all-time high north of $93 a barrel Monday on a mixture of bullish trading momentum and reports that Mexico is slashing oil production because of severe weather. The December light sweet crude contract jumped $1.67 to $93.53, its highest close ever, at the New York Mercantile Exchange. Reformulated gasoline was 5 cents higher at $2.33 a gallon. Heating oil was up 3 cents at $2.46 a gallon. Near-term natural gas finished ahead by 5 cents at $7.27 per million British thermal units. The November contract at the Nymex expired at the end of the session. According to Stephen Schork, principal at the Schork Group, crude is riding high on momentum that carried through from last week's record advance. "There's lots of bullish energy in the market right now," Schork said. "This market wants to go to $100 a barrel." This sentiment received a catalyst when Pemex, the national oil company of Mexico, announced that it has cut 600,000 barrels a day of production due to poor weather in the Bay of Campeche. A Pemex representative said the company expects production to be back online in a few days. Elsewhere, the U.S. dollar fell again in trading against the euro. Because crude is priced in dollars in the global marketplace, a decline in the dollar tends to cause oil to appreciate. The Federal Reserve will announce on Wednesday whether it will again lower its fed funds target rate, and analysts are expecting a cut of 25 basis points. Such a move would likely send the value of the dollar lower and further increase upward pressure on oil prices.
Also, the natural gas market got a boost from cool weather on the East Coast, according to Schork. "It finally feels like fall on the Atlantic seaboard. Natural gas is getting its annual fall boost." Meanwhile, energy stocks moved broadly higher. Exxon Mobil ( XOM) rose 1.5% to $93.61, and Chevron ( CVX) was 1.3% higher to $92.88. Norwegian state oil firm StatoilHydro ( STO) reported a 26% increase in third-quarter profits over the same period a year ago. Shares of StatoilHydro rose 3.4% to $35.31. Among stock ratings changes, Western Refining ( WNR) was upgraded by UBS to neutral from sell, but its shares fell 0.9% to $37.80. U.S. refiner Tesoro ( TSO) was downgraded by BMO Capital Markets to market perform from outperform, lowering its stock 5.2% to $61.11. Ethanol producer VeraSun ( VSE) was downgraded by Calyon Securities to add from buy. However, shares of VeraSun moved 3.1% higher to $12.95. Baker Hughes ( BHI) was downgraded by Friedman Billings to market perform from outperform, and its shares fell 2.3% to $87.99.