Crude oil eases down in thin trade as U.S. fiscal cliff fears weigh

Shutterstock photo - Crude oil futures eased down in thin trade on Monday, as appetite for growth-linked assets weakened amid reduced hopes for a U.S. budget deal before the year-end deadline.

Trading was expected to remain subdued, with year-end positioning driving flows and as holidays in many countries limit activity.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures for delivery in February traded at USD90.69 a barrel during European morning trade, down 0.15% on the day.

New York-traded oil prices were stuck in a tight trading range between USD90.36 a barrel, the daily low and a session high of USD90.95 a barrel.

Market players remained focused on developments surrounding the fiscal cliff in the U.S., approximately USD600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House Friday afternoon, but both sides failed to reach an agreement ahead of the looming year-end deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would resume sitting on Monday to continue discussions, but there were still significant differences between the two sides.

Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.

The U.S. is the world's biggest oil-consuming country, responsible for almost 22% of global oil demand.

Oil's losses were limited after a report from HSBC released earlier confirmed that manufacturing activity in China expanded at the fastest pace since May 2011 in December.

The final version of China's HSBC Purchasing Managers Index rose to 51.5 in December from a final reading of 50.5 in November.

China is the world's second largest oil consumer after the U.S. and has been the engine of strengthening demand in recent years.

For the year, New York-traded oil prices lost nearly 8%, the first annual decline since 2008.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange, Brent oil futures for February delivery shed 0.5% to trade at USD110.09 a barrel, with the spread between the Brent and crude contracts standing at USD19.40 a barrel.

London-traded oil prices added nearly 14% in 2012.

Brent futures hit a high of USD128.40 a barrel in March, as a combination of concerns over a disruption to supplies from the Middle East and worries over declining production in the North Sea-region supported prices. - offers an extensive set of professional tools for the Forex, Commodities, Futures and the Stock Market including real-time data streaming, a comprehensive economic calendar, as well as financial news and technical & fundamental analysis by in-house experts.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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