Commodity Corner: Crude Settles above $91 a Barrel

Crude futures neared a 26-month high Tuesday as traders looked forward to long-term economic recovery.

Oil prices gained support on a weak dollar, before retreating some earlier gains on U.S. economic reports. The dollar index dropped to 80.33—a measure of the greenback's strength against a basket of major currencies. According to the U.S. Conference Board, consumer confidence declined in December to 52.5, while the S&P Case-Shiller index of home property fell 0.8 percent from October 2009.

Crude for February delivery settled at $91.49 a barrel Tuesday, gaining 49 cents. Analysts anticipate crude to reach the $100-mark early next year. Rising equities and harsh winter-weather conditions in the northeastern U.S. helped contribute to the increase in oil prices.

The intraday range for crude prices was $90.75 to $91.67.

Natural gas prices continued to increase for the second consecutive day Tuesday, ending the trading session at $4.22 per thousand cubic feet. Although AccuWeather reported above-average temperatures in Chicago and New York, gains were boosted by bargain-buying ahead of Tuesday's expiration of the January contract. Above-average temperatures decrease the demand for gas-fired electricity needed in heating homes. Natural gas gained 10.4 cents Tuesday, after peaking at $4.27 and bottoming out at $4.07.

Gasoline prices ended Tuesday's light trading session at $2.41 a gallon, trading between $2.40 and $2.43.