Oil, fuel prices jump

Energy prices rose Monday as an October chill across much of the U.S. sent thermometers plummeting along with the weakening U.S. currency.

“The early blast of winter is giving oil a bit of a boost,” said PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn.

Benchmark crude for November delivery gained $1.58 to $73.35 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil rose 4.8 cents to $1.90 a gallon and natural gas jumped 13.5 cents to $4.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Even though there are enormous supplies of all three due to the recession and there is little chance of a shortage in the near term, crude prices have risen 5 percent in three trading days.

It is the weakened U.S. currency that continues to lure global investors, who can buy oil for a bargain because it is priced in the dollar. There are billions going into the energy markets despite huge surpluses, especially in natural gas.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the dollar against other major currencies, is down 14 percent since early March, and crude has jumped by about $20 per barrel.

There are also hopes that energy demand will rise as the economy recovers and early indications from major corporations supported that optimism.

Aluminium maker Alcoa Inc. last week opened the earnings season with a surprisingly strong profit report. Top banks JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. report this week along with Google Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Intel Corp., IBM Corp., General Electric Co., and Johnson & Johnson.

Retail gasoline prices edged up overnight, but are still below $2.50 per gallon.