Policy: Economy

Natural gas plunges 7 percent as cold front ends

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News,Business,Economy,Natural Gas,Weather

NEW YORK (AP) — Natural gas prices fell sharply Monday as the bitter cold that hit most of the country last week started to dissipate.

Natural gas futures plunged 32 cents, or 7 percent, to $4.67 per thousand cubic feet. The drop comes after natural gas prices hit their highest level since September 2011 on Friday.

Natural gas is the nation's most popular form of heating, used by roughly half the country. Electricity is the second most popular heating source, and electric power generators are heavy users of natural gas to generate power.

The cold front last week caused some parts of the country to report shortages for propane and other natural gas products due to increased demand.

Forecasters expect temperatures to remain cold for most of the country this week, but the cold is not expected to be as extreme as it was last week.

Heating oil, which is used primarily in the Northeast, dropped nearly 2 percent Monday.

Other energy futures also fell. Crude oil was down 92 cents, or 1 percent, to $95.72 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline futures fell four cents, or 1.4 percent, to $2.63 a gallon.

Metal commodities mostly fell.

Gold lost 90 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $1,263.40 an ounce. High-grade copper fell a penny, or 0.4 percent, to $3.26 a pound. March platinum fell $7.50, or 0.5 percent, to $1,421.10 an ounce and palladium was down $12.25, or 2 percent, to $722.55 an ounce. Only silver rose, gaining 3 cents to $19.79 an ounce.

Crop prices mostly rose.

Corn for March delivery rose two cents, or 0.5 percent, to $4.32 a bushel and soybeans were up three cents, or 0.2 percent, to $12.88 a bushel. March wheat fell two cents, or 0.3 percent, to $5.64 a bushel.

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