The Feburary 2013 Crude contract is running for the upside today. The opening bell had Feb Crude at 88.62, but futures have rallied strongly since, currently (noon CT) at 90.88. Speculation about the fiscal cliff is being partially blamed along with tension between Kurdish producing regions of Iraq and Turkey.
The news comes as U.S. domestic supply levels off well above the five-year average, according to EIA. Since the U.S. is importing a great deal less of Middle Eastern Crude, the pricing fluctuation could have been much greater. Recall 2005 when the 'fear premium' pushed prices up to $140.00 per barrel. The current tensions and squabbles in the middle east have much less affect on the price of a barrel of crude in the U.S. and though the February contract got a lift, the price of crude is still well below 'fear premium' levels of the past.
Increased pressure on domestic stocks by increased demand for heating oil and holiday transport do tend to register a seasonal uptick this time of year. Talks of uncertainty in the markets regarding the fiscal cliff may have speculators a little on edge, but robust domestic production, imports from our friends in Canada and strong seasonal supply should limit Crude's run to the high side, and prices should moderate and return to a range between $80 and $90.