Oil hovers near $91 as traders eye US economy

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices hovered near $91 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as investors looked to U.S. economic indicators for evidence to justify the recent crude rally.

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 4 cents to $91.04 a barrel midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 51 cents to settle at $91 on Monday.

Traders this week will be closely watching the latest data on U.S. consumer confidence, home sales and jobless claims for signs the economic recovery may be gaining traction.

There’s a “dynamic of a significant demand improvement both within the U.S. and globally,” Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report. “We look for the market to seize upon even minor bullish tidbits.”

Oil traded in the $70s for most of the year, but has surged in the fourth quarter to a two-year high last week amid strong crude consumption growth in emerging economies and optimism demand in the U.S. is slowly recovering from last year’s recession.

This week trading volume is light as many traders take time off around the year-end holidays. Global oil markets are closed Friday for New Year’s Day.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil gained 0.2 cent to $2.54 a gallon, gasoline futures fell 0.2 cent to $2.42 a gallon and natural gas dropped 3.2 cents to $4.08 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 17 cents to $93.68 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

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