Oil climbed on optimism that negotiators will reach a last-minute U.S. budget deal averting more than $600 billion of tax increases and spending cuts that threaten economic growth.
Futures rose 1.1 percent after President Barack Obama said he was “hopeful” that Congress will come up with an agreement to avoid the budget measures known as the fiscal cliff. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said lawmakers are “very, very close” to an accord. Oil in New York dropped for the first year since 2008 as U.S. output surged.
“It looks like we’ll be getting a deal,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics LLC in Austin, Texas. “An agreement has yet to be fully priced in, so prices should rise further. Going over the fiscal cliff would have raised the prospect of a global economic recession.”
Crude oil for February delivery increased $1.02 to $91.82 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement since Oct. 18. Prices dropped 7.1 percent this year and 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter. They rose 3.3 percent in December. The volume for West Texas Intermediate oil contracts traded in New York was 53 percent below the 100-day average.
There is no floor trading tomorrow because of the New Year’s Day holiday. Electronic transactions will halt at 5:15 p.m. New York time today and resume at 6 p.m. tomorrow for settlement on Jan. 2.
Brent oil for February settlement rose 49 cents, or 0.4 percent, to end the session at $111.11 a barrel on the London- based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The number of contracts trading was 55 percent lower than the 100-day average. Brent has advanced 3.5 percent this year, a fourth annual gain. It slipped 12 cents in December and 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter.
The European benchmark’s premium to WTI narrowed to $19.29, the least since Sept. 25.
WTI declined in 2012 as the U.S. shale boom deepened a glut at Cushing, Oklahoma, America’s biggest storage hub and the delivery point for the New York contract. That has left it at an average $17.48 a barrel below Brent this year, compared with a premium of about 95 cents in the 10 years through 2010.
U.S. crude production rose to 6.984 million barrels a day, the highest level since 1993, in the week ended Dec. 21, the Energy Department reported Dec. 28.
“A budget deal would be good for demand,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy. “There’s fundamental strength to the market, and an agreement would be a catalyst for higher prices going into 2013.”
Under a proposed deal, income tax cuts would be extended for annual income up to $450,000, said an official who spoke on condition of anonymity, with rates rising to 39.6 percent on income above that. Expanded unemployment insurance would be continued through 2013.
“It appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year’s tax hike is within sight, but it’s not done,” Obama told a group of what the White House described as middle-class taxpayers. He urged people to “keep the pressure on over the next 12 hours or so; let’s get this thing done.”
Even if a deal is reached and can get through both chambers of Congress, it would be more limited than Obama and leaders of both parties sought. It would set up another battle early in 2013 over the budget and the federal debt limit.
The U.S. and China are the world’s biggest oil-consuming countries, together accounting for 32 percent of global crude demand in 2011, according to BP Plc (BP/)’s Statistical Review of World Energy.
Chinese manufacturing expanded at the fastest pace in 19 months in December, according to the final reading of a Purchasing Managers’ Index from HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics today. The 51.5 figure compares with the 50.9 preliminary reading published Dec. 14 and 50.5 in November. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
OPEC crude oil production declined to a nine-month low in December as Saudi Arabian output dropped to the least in more than a year, a Bloomberg survey showed. Output in the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries slipped 110,000 barrels to an average 31.434 million barrels a day this month from a revised 31.544 million in November, according to the survey of oil companies, producers and analysts.
Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s biggest oil producer, pumped 9.57 million barrels a day of crude in December, the lowest level since October 2011.
Net-long positions in WTI held by money managers, including hedge funds, commodity pools and commodity-trading advisers, increased by 13,783 futures and options combined, or 11 percent, to 134,834 in the week ended Dec. 24, according to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s weekly report on Dec. 28.
In London, funds and other money managers raised bullish bets on Brent by the most in a month, data from ICE showed.
Electronic trading volume on the Nymex was 219,591 contracts as of 3:52 p.m. Volume totaled 262,511 contracts on Dec. 28, 46 percent below the three-month average. Open interest was 1.47 million, the lowest level since Aug. 13.
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