Crudae prices float below US$100 a barrel in Asia


SINGAPORE–Oil prices hovered below US$100 a barrel Tuesday in Asia amid low holiday week trading volume.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 13 cents at US$99.55 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 15 cents to settle at US$99.68 in New York on Friday. In London, Brent crude was up 13 cents at US$108.09 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 0.8 cent to US$2.91 per gallon and gasoline futures fell 0.5 cent at US$2.67 per gallon. Natural gas futures were down 3.0 cents to US$3.08 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Global oil trading markets were closed Monday for the Christmas holiday. Crude briefly popped above US$100 on Friday amid growing evidence the U.S. economy is improving. Some analysts say concerns that Europe’s debt crisis will trigger a recession on the continent next year will overshadow any positive news out of the U.S. this week. “We don’t expect this strength to be maintained this week given a likely shift in focus back toward the eurozone where major debt issues remain largely unresolved,” energy consultant Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report. Because many traders are on vacation this week, trading volume is sharply lower and a few trades could jolt prices. “Volume will be thin through this abbreviated week,” energy consultant and trader The Schork Group said in a report. “As such, the potential exists for some wild swings.”