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January 10, 2007 1:00 AM, EST

Crude Oil Closes at 19-Month Low, at $54.02 a Barrel

Diesel Price Projected to Dip in 1Q, DOE Says
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Crude oil futures hit a 19-month low price, closing at $54.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Wednesday following a Department of Energy report showing strong heating-oil inventories, Bloomberg reported.Meanwhile, DOE projected that retail diesel will dip in the first quarter of this year to $2.49 a gallon, from $2.56 in the fourth quarter of last year, the department said in its monthly short-term energy outlook.Crude oil for the year will average $64.42 a barrel, down from its previous projection of $65.17 and from last year’s $66.02 average price, DOE said.In its weekly inventory report released Wednesday, DOE reported that while crude inventories fell by 5 million barrels last week, distillates — which include diesel and heating oil — surged 5.4 million barrels. Gasoline rose 3.8 million barrels.The distillate rise was attributed to warmer weather, which has crimped heating-oil demand, Bloomberg reported. Diesel and heating oil prices often rise and fall together in winter months.Oil hit a record Nymex closing price of $77.03 last July.