BANGKOK — Oil rose above US$84 a barrel Wednesday in Asia as investors awaited details of a Federal Reserve plan to boost the U.S. economy that could further weaken the dollar and boost demand for crude. Benchmark crude for December delivery was up 26 cents to US$84.16 a barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 95 cents to settle at US$83.90 a barrel on Monday. In other Nymex trading in December contracts, heating oil added 1 cent to US$2.30 a gallon, gasoline gained 2 cents to US$2.11 a gallon and natural gas fell 1 cent to US$3.86 per 1,000 cubic feet. In London, Brent crude rose 13 cents to US$85.54 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
It was the fourth straight day of gains for oil, driven primarily by a weaker dollar and expectations that the Federal Reserve will buy government bonds to stimulate the economy. An announcement is expected Wednesday after the Fed concludes a two-day meeting. That, in turn, could further weaken the dollar, depending on the amount of money the policymakers decide to put into the economy and the timeframe in which the buying would occur. Since commodities like oil and gold are priced in dollars, a weaker dollar makes them more attractive to buyers who use foreign currencies. U.S. midterm election results, meanwhile, showed Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives from Democrats but falling short of a majority in Senate — a widely expected result. Many energy analysts, like Tom Bentz of BNP Paribas Commodity Futures, believe expectations for stimulus money are already built into commodities prices. In addition, oil may be benefiting from comments by Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Naimi, who said he would be comfortable with oil prices in a range between US$70 a barrel and US$90 a barrel, according to energy consultancy Cameron Hanover. “This was the first time that he had suggested a range that high, always alluding to a range between US$70 and US$80 in the past,” the energy consultants said in a research note to clients. Bentz said it is possible that oil could reach US$90 a barrel because of outside influences on the market, including the weaker dollar and the potential for a bigger-than-anticipated stimulus package from government policymakers.