Crude oil prices increased to more than $72 a barrel on 17 December after positive data from the US ended nine consecutive days of falling prices.

The Nymex West Texas Intermediate (WTI) January contract traded at $72.20 a barrel, up $1.40 from a week before.

Europe’s January Brent contract traded at $73.60 at the same time, up $0.90 a barrel from a week before.

The average price for Opec member states’ oil was $72.17 on 16 December, the last data available at the time of writing. This was down $1.50 from a week earlier.

Prices had fallen for nine consecutive days before 16 December as traders became worried over the level of forecast demand for 2010. The jump in the WTI and Brent prices came after the US’ Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that crude oil stocks fell 3.7 million barrels to 332.4 million barrels during the week ended 11 December.

With cold weather forecast in Europe and the US, analysts now believe that winter in the West could draw on some of the hundreds of millions of barrels of oil that are currently in storage worldwide. Stocks in the US, the world’s largest energy consumer, are 11.1 million barrels higher than they were in the same period of 2008.

Players in the oil market are waiting for the 22 December meeting of Opec ministers in Luanda, Angola for direction. The international oil cartel is not expected to change current production quotas.