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Action AlertWhen not to call collect

>> Be careful about calling collect from a pay phone at some airports, including Kennedy, LaGuardia, and Newark. There are airports around the country that have made contracts with carriers charging exorbitant rates—and you won’t know how exorbitant it is until you or the person you called gets the bill.

Self-defense: Take the trouble to get change. If you’d rather not, call your party and immediately ask that they call you back, then hang up and wait for the call.

Natural gas down, oil up

>>The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that natural gas prices fell about 75 percent from last year to a new seasonal low—less than $3 per thousand cubic feet. Causes of the decline: recession-driven lack of demand and recent over-production. Electricity prices also swooned. In response, the number of operating natural gas drilling rigs has dropped 47 percent since September, 2008, which means the current over-supply of gas may not last for long.

Oil prices, on the other hand, have risen since mid-February to about $66 a barrel near the near of the third quarter. Reasons include a cut in production by OPEC, a general expectation of economic recovery, and an extensive pull-back by refineries in the U.S. and Europe. Cambridge Energy Research Associates estimates that half of the new oil and gas production that was planned to go on stream may now be cancelled or put off. Behind the pull-back: Demand for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel fell by 7.1 percent last year, the largest one-year decline since 1950, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Self-defense: If you’re in a position to choose between natural gas and oil for home heat, it may pay to favor gas. Producers in both industries have cut production, but oil is more important to transportation and industry. So when the economy comes to life again, the demand for oil products may rise much more sharply than the demand for natural gas. For more information on the history and outlook for oil and gas prices: www.wsj.com/marketdatacenter, www.About.com, or www.Ask.com.

Why gas looks brighter than oil.

 

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