Money Matters - Simplified

overnight

Market mixed in early afternoon trading

New York -- U.S. markets opened mixed Thursday after the U.S. Department of Labor reported first-time jobless claims fell by 17,000 in the week ending Dec. 4.

As expected, the Bank of England left its overnight lending rate unchanged at 0.5 percent Thursday. The leading index in Britain rose 0.4 percent in October, the Conference Board said.

In most of Asia and Europe markets rose. The dollar index, a pro-rated measure of the greenback against six major currencies, rose 0.32 percent to 80.26, climbing for the third consecutive trading session.

Crude oil prices steady Wednesday

New York -- Crude oil prices held steady on the New York Mercantile Exchange overnight with equities mixed in Asia and Europe and the dollar index up 0.25 percent.

Traders are waiting for an afternoon report on U.S. energy stockpiles and keeping an eye on weather reports that presume a seasonal increase in a demand for heating oil.

January delivery light, sweet crude oil in New York added 2 cents overnight to $88.71 per barrel. Heating oil prices rose 0.38 cents to $2.474 per gallon. Reformulated gasoline blendstock prices lost 0.2 cents to $2.321 per gallon.

Henry Hub natural gas prices added 15.9 cents to $4.552 per million British thermal units.

Crude oil tops $90 per barrel briefly

New York -- Crude oil prices climbed above $90 per barrel for the second time in a week Tuesday, with prices settling down in early morning trading in New York.

Prices hit an overnight peak of $90.76 on the New York Mercantile Exchange with confidence rising as the White House announced a compromise tax bill that would extend the George W. Bush era tax cuts for all wage earners for two years. Along with the compromise between Republicans and the Obama administration, jobless benefits would be extended for 13 months for unemployed long-term.

The price of January delivery light, sweet crude settled lower at $89.36 by midmorning. Heating oil prices added 0.34 cents to $2.4791 per gallon.

ECB holds bank-to-bank lending rate intact

Frankfurt, Germany -- The European Central Bank said Thursday it would leave its bank-to-bank overnight lending rate intact at 1 percent.

A statement on the widely expected decision issued by the bank left out mention of ECB bond purchases. An increased investment by the central bank in government bonds could shore up confidence in European government finances in the same week Ireland accepted a $90 billion international aid package to help support its ailing banks.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet scheduled an afternoon press conference to explain the bank's decision.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

Crude oil heads higher on weak dollar

New York -- Crude oil prices topped $84 per barrel overnight in New York with investors optimistic that demand was strong.

Key manufacturing indexes in China and the United States showed expanding business activity Monday. Oil prices have also found support from a weaker dollar. The dollar index on Tuesday morning fell 0.71 percent.

Australian dollar almost equal to U.S.

Canberra, Australia -- The Australian dollar was at 99 cents to the U.S. dollar overnight Thursday.

The dollar moved higher, driven by the strong Australian economy and a weakening U.S. dollar. The Australian dollar came within one cent of its American counterpart late Thursday before falling back to 0.98 cents to the dollar Friday afternoon.

Westpac Bank Chief Economist Bill Evans predicted the Australian dollar could reach as high as $1.05 U.S.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).