With US investors eagerly looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday today and Friday, trading was choppy across many energy markets on Wednesday.

Crude oil prices eased back as the latest weekly inventory data from the US Energy Information Administration showed a smaller-than-expected increase in crude oil stocks.

Nymex West Texas Intermediate for January delivery fell 13 cents to settle at $58.71 a barrel after US crude stocks rose by 0.4m barrels to 321.8m barrels in the week to November 18, below analyst expectations of an increase of 0.6m barrels. Traders said they would not be surprised to see a reversal before the end of the session as hedge funds looked to square positions before the holidaybreak.

IPE Brent for January delivery fell 20 cents to close at $56.21 a barrel.

Nymex heating oil fell 2.5 per cent to $1.6880 a gallon after stocks of distillates rose 1.1m barrels against analyst expectations for an increase of 0.8m barrels.

Energy prices continued to be supported by cold weather on both sides of the Atlantic. Nymex January natural gas prices rose 3.2 per cent to $11.98 per million British thermal units as the EIA’s latest figures showed the first storage withdrawal of the season, indicating increased demand following recent cold weather in the US midwest and northeast.

UK natural gas prices eased back after Tuesday’s spike prompted by fears over supply shortages. IPE natural gas traded 13.1 per cent lower at 101p per therm.

“UK natural gas is the world’s most expensive fuel and the underlying structural pressures – declining domestic production, a lack of flexibility to switch to other fuel sources and limited ability to import – show no sign of easing,” said Kevin Norrish of Barclays Capital.

Gold prices declined from the 18-year high reached on Tuesday after encountering resistance ahead of the key psychological $500 a troy ounce level.

Gold traded at $490.20/491.00 a troy ounce from New York’s late quote of $494.0/494.75 on Tuesday. Few traders were prepared to add to existing long positions ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Choppy, illiquid trading is expected for the rest of the week.

Gold prices have also found support this week from Russia with President Vladimir Putin reportedly throwing his weight behind a proposal to increase the central bank’s gold holdings.

Silver prices tracked gold lower to $8.10 per troy ounce.

Copper prices fell for a second day in succession as China said it planned to hold three further public auctions – a move intended to calm fears over potential market instability. Three month copper fell 0.5 per cent to $4,092.5 a tonne.

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