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Oil down in Asia, hampered by lack of cliff progress

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Shutterstock photo - Oil futures traded fractionally lower in the early part of Monday's Asian session after a Sunday session for Congress produced no tangible results regarding a fiscal cliff resolution.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for February delivery fell 0.15% to USD90.67 per barrel in Asian trading Monday. Last week, New York-traded oil futures added 2%, good for the third consecutive weekly gain.

Oil prices turned lower after the U.S. Energy Information Administration said that U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 0.6 million barrels last week, compared to expectations for a decline of 1.85 million barrels.

The report also showed that total motor gasoline inventories increased by 3.78 million barrels, above expectations for a gain of 0.5 million barrels.

Still, crude's gains were impressive in the face of dour fiscal cliff headlines which chased investors out of riskier assets, including stocks. U.S. equities slid for a fifth consecutive day on Friday with the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by more than one percent each. The five-day losing streak for the S&P 500 is the longest since September.

During a press interview Sunday, President Obama said financial markets would be adversely impacted if Congress fails to craft a fiscal cliff resolution prior to the Tuesday deadline. Obama said his top priority to ensure that taxes on middle-class Americans do not go up.

Obama's tone regarding a fiscal cliff resolution remains optimistic, but time is running short. Congress recessed for the evening, but pledged to reconvene later today. However, little headway was made towards resolving the GDP-draining fiscal cliff Sunday, giving policymakers less than two days with which to work.

The fiscal cliff will dominate the headlines for the next few days, but traders will also be eying Friday's U.S. non-farm payroll report for December. The U.S. is the world's biggest oil-consuming country, responsible for almost 22% of global oil demand.

Elsewhere, Brent futures for February delivery slipped 0.1% to USD110.36 per barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange. - 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.

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