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Oil, gas prices climb

NEW YORK -- Crude oil futures rose yesterday ahead of an extended weekend for traders, even though weekly government data showed rising domestic inventories of crude and distillate fuel, which includes heating oil.

Natural gas futures skyrocketed more than 20 percent as the front-month contract expired and the government reported a decline in inventories that are still bountiful for this time of year.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery rose 50 cents to settle at $49.44 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude climbed 37 cents to $44.82 per barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange.

"The biggest thing is that the Nymex is going to be closed for four days," said John Kilduff, senior analyst at Fimat USA Inc., a New York-based brokerage, referring to the New York Mercantile Exchange, which will be closed today and tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Traders often bid prices higher before the weekend out of fear of an unexpected supply disruption.

Natural gas futures soared as high as $8.15 per 1,000 cubic feet before settling at $7.976 on Nymex, an increase of $1.183 as the December contract expired and the government reported a larger-than-expected drop in underground storage from a week ago.

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