While oil futures jumped to a record $97 a barrel, solar energy company shares hit new highs.

Oil futures jumped to a new record of over $97 a barrel last week, and light, sweet crude for December delivery rose $2.72 to settle at a record $96.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday.

According to the Associated Press, analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expect the Energy Department's weekly petroleum report on Wednesday to show crude oil inventories falling again. The data covers a week when Mexico's national oil company Pemex shut down 1 million barrels a day in production:

    The Energy Dept.'s Energy Information Administration released its monthly "Short-Term Energy Outlook," forecasting an average price of $87 per barrel for West Texas crude in the fourth quarter. "Monthly average prices are expected to exceed $80 per barrel over the next several months and remain well above $70 per barrel throughout the forecast period," the report said.
The EIA reports that crude will rise to $67.82 a barrel this year, and to $74.92 per barrel in 2008, versus $60.23 last year. In addition, natural gas is expected to average about $7.30 per thousand cubic feet this year and $8.01 per thousand cubic feet next year.

Yet even with higher prices, EIA forecasts that U.S. petroleum consumption will rise 0.5 percent this year and 1 percent in 2008. "Continued economic growth and colder average temperatures this winter than last winter combine to push demand higher."

Solar Energy Shares On The Rise

Solar energy company shares have also hit new highs, led specifically by Sunpower Corp., which soared $20.33 (15.7%) to close at $149.56. Earlier, shares climbed to an all-time high of $152.62.

First Solar Inc. rose to a high of $170.22, then moved back to $169, up $20.90 (14.1%). Suntech Power Holdings notched a new high of $65.45 before slipping back to $64.50, up $7.70 (13.6%) percent.