Investing.com - Crude oil futures hovered below last week's four-month high during U.S. morning hours on Tuesday, swinging between modest gains and losses ahead of the release of industry data on U.S. oil supplies.
Focus remained on the U.S. economic outlook and how U.S. lawmakers will deal with the upcoming debt ceiling debate.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures for delivery in February traded at USD93.12 a barrel during U.S. morning trade, down 0.1% on the day.
New York-traded oil prices traded in a range between USD93.00 a barrel, the daily low and a session high of USD93.80 a barrel. Oil futures touched USD93.82 a barrel on January 2, the strongest level since September 19.
Market participants looked ahead to fresh weekly information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products to gauge the strength of oil demand in the world's largest oil consumer.
The American Petroleum Institute will release its inventories report later in the day, while Wednesday's government report could show crude stockpiles fell by 250,000 barrels.
Overall market sentiment remained cautious amid uncertainty about continuing political wrangling in Washington over further U.S. budget cuts and raising the U.S. debt ceiling.
The U.S. is the world's biggest oil-consuming country, responsible for almost 22% of global oil demand.
Market players are also looking ahead to a flurry of Chinese economic data scheduled to come out later in the week. The world's second largest oil consumer will release monthly trade data on Thursday, while inflation figures are due on Friday.
Oil traders are also awaiting a policy meeting by the European Central Bank on Thursday to see if the central bank will modify its benchmark interest rate.
Official data released earlier showed that German factory orders fell 1.8% in November, compared to expectations for a 1.4% decline as overseas demand declined.
Meanwhile, Eurostat said the unemployment rate in the euro zone hit a new record high of 11.8% in November, up from 11.7% in October, underlining concerns over the outlook for growth in the region.
A separate report showed that euro zone retail sales increased 0.1% in November, compared to expectations for a 0.3% rise.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange, Brent oil futures for February delivery eased up 0.35% to trade at USD111.78 a barrel, with the spread between the Brent and crude contracts standing at USD18.66 a barrel.
The spread between the two contracts narrowed to the lowest since September earlier, as the start of an expansion of the Seaway pipeline was expected to help alleviate a glut of crude in the Midwest.
Pipeline operators Enterprise Products Partners and Enbridge said the flow to the Gulf from the oil-transit hub at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for the NYMEX oil contract, will grow to 400,000 barrels a day from current levels of 150,000 barrels a day by the end of the week.
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