When will oil hit $100 per barrel?

This week

Sometime in November

By the end of 2007

Not until next year

Never - the psychological ramifications are too severe

This morning's report from the Energy Department showing a surprising decline in crude inventories lit up the energy pits today. After a brief respite on Tuesday, black gold rallied to yet another new high today, closing up $4.15, or 4.6%, at $94.53 a barrel. This marked the highest settlement price on record for a front-month contract. In intraday trading, the contract had hit $94.74 per barrel. In other energy issues, November reformulated gasoline rose 8.29 cents, or 3.8%, hitting $2.34 a gallon. November heating oil was up 8.32 cents, or 3.4%, to a fresh settlement record of $2.5078 a gallon.

The backdrop of rallying crude prices boded well for the metals market, which tacked on gains in Wednesday's trading as well. December gold futures closed $7.50 higher, at $795.30 an ounce. Analysts noted that the Federal Reserve's rate cut today would probably add to the metal's strength. Silver, meanwhile, tacked on 11 cents to $14.438 an ounce and platinum and palladium made modest gains. Copper was left out of the party, however, edging 0.85 cent lower at $3.4730 a pound.

With about 20 minutes left in regular trading, let's check in on the related indices. The AMEX Gold Bugs Index (HUI) is up 3.2%, the Select Sector SPDR Energy Fund (XLE) is higher by 2.3%, and the AMEX Natural Gas Index (XNG) has gained 2.37%.