Crude-oil futures posted slight gains Monday as monthly data suggested an improvement in U.S. factory activity that could help boost fuel demand.
Light, sweet crude for November delivery settled 29 cents, or 0.3%, higher at $92.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange fell 20 cents to $112.19 a barrel.
The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing purchasing manager's index rose to 51.5 in September from 49.6 a month earlier. The reading was the first above 50, which indicates an expansion of activity, after three-straight months of data showing a contraction.
"We're seeing some support from the ISM number in the U.S.," said Matt Smith, an analyst at Summit Energy, though he was skeptical that prices could rally much higher amid still-weak domestic-fuel usage. "The fundamental backdrop is still poor."
Gains in the stock market also helped support oil futures Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was recently trading 0.6% higher at 13,511.
After pushing to highs near $100 a barrel in mid-September, U.S. crude futures have slumped back to the $90 level as traders question whether a sluggish economy will improve oil and fuel demand.
Last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. four-week average oil demand fell to the lowest level since early April and was 3.4% below the same period last year. While part of the demand drop was due to the effects of Hurricane Isaac in late August, demand for the latest week fell to an 11-year low.
Over the past week, despite a surge in gasoline futures, crude-oil prices have held in a tight range between $90 and $94 a barrel.
Front-month November reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled unchanged at $2.9201 a gallon. November heating oil settled 2.34 cents lower at $3.1358 a gallon.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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