Crude Slightly Higher As Europe Stays In Focus

NEW YORK (Dow Jones Newswires), Dec. 19, 2011

Crude futures rose Monday, recovering slightly from six-week lows as traders keep watch on Europe for signs of progress in stemming the debt crisis.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery recently traded 35 cents, or 0.4%, higher at $93.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for February delivery on the ICE futures exchange traded 28 cents higher at $103.63 a barrel.

Oil prices were higher through much of Monday's session and held to gains after a conference call between euro-zone finance ministers led to new action to help support debt markets.

Euro-zone ministers agreed that the currency bloc's members will provide 150 billion euros in loans to the International Monetary Fund, according to a euro-zone official.

Oil traders have closely watched events in Europe on concerns that a slowdown in the region will cut global oil demand.

"It's all about Europe. There's nothing in the oil market that makes it interesting by itself here," said Dominick Chirichella, an oil analyst at the Energy Management Institute.

After falling nearly 6% last week and breaking well below the 200-day moving average, the market was primed for a rebound, said Phil Flynn, analyst with PFG Best in Chicago.

But futures still appear to be confined to a trading range in the mid-$90s, particularly as trading volumes decline ahead of the typically slow holiday period.

The death over the weekend of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il also kept prices aimed higher. Traders are concerned about increased instability in the region and the potential for some conflict during the transition to Kim's successor.

South Korea put its military on "high alert," and the Obama administration is "closely monitoring" the situation.

The youngest of Kim Jong Il's three sons, Kim Jong Eun, is expected to lead the country.

Front-month January reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 0.21 cent, or 0.1%, higher at $2.4891 a gallon. January heating oil settled 2.01 cents lower at $2.7804 a gallon. 

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