Oil higher in choppy, light trade ahead of election
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Monday in very choppy trading as investors remained cautious ahead of the U.S. presidential election and with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy under way in the affected East Coast region.
Brent and U.S. crude managed gains only after dropping to multi-month lows during Monday's session as concerns about slow growth in China and Europe's economy hampered by the euro zone debt crisis continue to weigh on oil prices.
"There continue to be concerns about Europe and the uncertainty about the U.S. election, but there is some support for oil because of some expectation that the lower prices will prompt some demand," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
The near- and long-term effect of Hurricane Sandy on demand for petroleum is still unfolding as the U.S. East Coast's recovery continued after the storm hit the region early last week.
Around 1.4 million homes and businesses were still without power on Monday morning, according to the Department of Energy, even as the key New York Harbor oil network neared normal operations and fuel terminals resumed operations after power was restored over the weekend.
Brent December crude rose 75 cents to $106.43 a barrel by 12:09 p.m. EST (1709 GMT), having fallen to $104.76, the lowest since prices fell to $104.06 on August 1.
U.S. December crude was up 25 cents at $85.11 a barrel, having recovered after slipping to $84.34, the lowest since prices fell to $84.21 on July 12.
Total Brent trading volume outpaced U.S. crude turnover, but dealings for Brent and U.S. crude were well below their 30- and 250-day averages.
U.S. December RBOB gasoline futures were up 1.81 cents at $2.5917 a gallon. But Monday's session low of $2.5524 was the weakest gasoline futures price since June.
Gasoline futures reached $2.9375 a gallon during Wednesday's session, after the storm struck the New York region on Monday night and on the day October refined products futures contracts expired.
U.S. December heating oil, the benchmark distillate contract, also pushed higher, up 1.86 cents at $2.9660 a gallon.
U.S. ELECTION TUESDAY
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are locked in a close race as voters head to the polls on Tuesday.
Markets are also worried about the outcome of Congressional talks over the 'fiscal cliff,' a package of tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January if there is no long-term pact to cut the U.S. budget deficit.
If policymakers are unable to fashion a solution to avoid the fiscal cliff, it could push the world's biggest economy into a recession and cut energy demand more than expected.
"After the election, more confidence should come into the markets," said Eugen Weinberg, an energy analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. He added that investors were also awaiting the outcome of the Chinese 18th Party Congress this week.
"We expect the new leadership in China to undertake further economic support measures which will have a positive impact on commodities," he said.
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