Egypt's oil ministry yesterday announced an increase of between 25 and 60 cents for December export prices of crude oil.

The move came one day after Mexico, the world's fourth-biggest exporter of crude oil and the United States' largest supplier, announced price hikes of one type of crude averging 76 cents a barrel.

Hammad Ayoub, director for foreign trade for the Egyptian Oil Ministry, was quoted by the Middle East News Agency as saying the price of Egypt's top-grade Gulf of Suez and Ras el-Bihar crude was increased by 60 cents to $26.70 a barrel.

The Ras Badran grade was increased by 25 cents to $25.25 a barrel, Ras Ghareb was increased 35 cents to $23.85 a barrel, and Balaim crude was increased 45 cents to $25.45 a barrel, the announcement said.

Observers have been predicting prices would rise during the winter, largely because of increased demand for heating oil in the Northern Hemisphere.

Many also expect prices to ease by spring.

Revenue from oil exports constitutes Egypt's second-largest source of hard currency after remittances from Egyptians working abroad.

Income from oil exports has fallen because of the world glut. Egypt last increased oil prices in October, by 25 and 45 cents a barrel.

Like Mexico, Egypt is not a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and fixes its prices independently on the basis of market conditions, reviewing them monthly.

Mexico hiked the price of its light export crude for the second month in a row. Petroleos Mexicanos, the government oil monopoly known as Pemex, said heavy crude prices would remain unchanged for the rest of the year.

The United States will be hardest hit by the new price schedule for Mexico's light export crude called Isthmus, paying another 85 U.S. cents for each barrel in contrast to the 55 cent increase affecting buyers from other regions.

As of Dec. 1, Americans will pay $28.35 instead of $27.50 a barrel for Isthmus.

European clients will pay $27.60 instead of $26.75, and Asian clients will pay $27.45 instead of $26.90.

The price hike followed a similar increase in Isthmus prices on Nov. 1 that averaged 60 cents a barrel and ended more than a year of price cuts for the light crude oil.

"The December price increases correspond to the usual increase in consumption of crude during the winter season. They are also aimed at correcting distortions in market demand for light and heavy hydrocarbons," a Pemex statement said.

Pemex oil accounts for most of the foreign oil consumed in the United States, although Americans buy more of Mexico's heavy crude oil, called Maya, than the light Isthmus brand.

Pemex said Maya oil will stay at the same export price set on Nov. 1, when the heavy crude's price was slashed for the fourth time this year.

U.S. clients currently pay $23.10 for each barrel of Maya. European clients pay $22.10 and Asian clients pay $22.60.

While Mexico is not an OPEC member, it had followed organization pricing until it broke with OPEC guidelines last summer. The world oil market had weakened and Mexico's sales had plunged by more than half.

Exports since then have recovered back to former levels. Pemex predicted it would sell 1.55 million barrels of crude oil daily during the month of December, and said November sales reached 1.524 million a day.

Oil sales make up three-fourths of Mexico's total export revenue and are the principal source of capital for making payments on an overwhelming $98 billion foreign debt -- the second-largest in the Third World after Brazil.