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ENERGY FUTURES PRICES FINISH MIXED AFTER A SEESAW DAY ON THE MERC

Energy futures prices finished mixed Friday after a seesaw day in which crude oil shot to eight-month highs before settling with a modest gain.

Light sweet crude oil for delivery in May finished at $19.17 per barrel, up 2 cents at the New York Mercantile Exchange.Despite the absence of fundamental news, crude prices shot up to $19.35 per barrel at mid-morning on a speculative round of buying. They settled lower as traders took profits.

Gasoline prices, which earlier this week had surged to their highest level in almost two years because of refinery shutdowns on the East Coast, dropped below 60 cents for the first time since Wednesday. Unleaded gasoline for delivery in May settled at 59.47 cents a gallon, down 1.21 cents.

Home heating oil for delivery in April settled at 47.06 cents a gallon, down 0.13 cents. In morning trading, it reached as high as 47.85 cents before traders sold their positions out of the spot contract, which expired at the end of trad-ing.

Natural gas prices were lower, with contracts for delivery in May settling at $1.685 per 1,000 cubic feet, down 0.2 cents.

In London, North Sea Brent Blend crude oil for delivery in May settled at $17.50 per barrel, up 11 cents, at the International Petroleum Exchange.