Crude oil prices were at their highest in a month on 24 December on the back of cold weather in Europe and North America and a larger-than-expected fall of stocks in the US, the world’s largest energy consumer.

The US’ benchmark February West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract traded at $77.15 a barrel on 24 December, up $4.95 from a week before.

Europe’s February Brent contract was trading at $75.80 at the same time, an increase of $2.20 from 17 December.

Both contracts were trading at their highest since 25 November when January WTI traded at $77.25 and January Brent traded at $76.55.

Analysts say that the high price levels come as a result of cold weather in Europe and the North America and lower oil stocks in the US.

The US’ Energy Information Administration reported on 23 December that crude oil inventories in the world’s largest energy consumer fell by 4.9 million barrels to 327.5 million barrels during the week ended 18 December.

Traders and analysts expect demand to remain robust in the coming weeks as cold weather and seasonal travel boost demand. The international oil cartel Opec voted on 22 December to keep its member states’ output steady due to uncertainty over demand going into 2010 (MEED 23:12:09).