Crude Down for 5th Session as Dollar Reigns

Forecasts for milder temperatures across the U.S. Northeast sent crude oil futures to the downside for a fifth consecutive session on the New York Mercantile Exchange Friday. 

The price of light, sweet crude oil for February delivery fell flat to $78 a barrel ahead of the weekend. Conversely, natural gas spot prices booked a positive movement on today's NYMEX to $5.691 per thousand cubic feet.

A thawing heating oil market has continued to put pressure on oil prices this week, but the dollar's rise against a basket of foreign currencies has also spurred investors away from betting on the risky energy commodity. Specifically, the greenback has continued to trump the euro, upon which concerns about Greece's fiscal health have weighed.

On Wall Street, U.S. equities slipped after JP Morgan Chase & Co reported substantial fourth-quarter losses on mortgage and credit card loans, weakening optimism for a rebound in consumer credit. Also chasing energy commodities into negative territory, the U.S. Energy Information Administration's oil inventory report on Wednesday underscored rising stockpiles of crude, total distillates and gasoline for the first week of 2010.

Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois, told Reuters, "The late December-early January bull move continued to unravel today under the pressure of a stronger dollar and weaker stock market." The analyst added, "Selling is still being led by the heating oil futures that are responding to a major temperature warmup across the northeast quadrant during the last half of this month."