Oil hovers above $93 as traders await EU debt plan

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Oil prices hovered above $93 a barrel as traders waited for European leaders to announce a plan later Wednesday on how they plan to solve the region's debt crisis.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for December delivery was up 32 cents at $93.49 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.90, or 2.1 percent, to settle at $93.17 in New York on Tuesday.

In London, Brent crude was down 26 cents at $110.66 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Crude has soared 24 percent from $75 three weeks ago on expectations Europe will be able to contain its sovereign debt crisis. Investors will be closely watching a summit of European leaders later Wednesday for details of a comprehensive plan to limit damage from a possible Greek debt default.

The cancellation of a meeting of EU finance ministers raised doubts about the effectiveness of the summit.

"EU finance chiefs will now meet at some undetermined date after the leaders meet to work on technical details of an as-of-yet unratified agreement," said Edward Meir at MF Global in New York. "The fact that the leadership meeting will proceed without this critical work being done strikes us as odd and suggests that we very well may get an inconclusive result on Wednesday."

Signs that U.S. crude demand remains sluggish weighed on oil prices.

The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories rose 2.7 million barrels last week while analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had predicted an increase of 200,000 barrels.

Inventories of gasoline added 153,000 barrels last week while distillates dropped 1.8 million barrels, the API said.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reports its weekly supply data — the market benchmark — later Wednesday.

Growing investor optimism the U.S. economy will avoid a recession this year has helped crude surge this month. However, the Conference Board said Tuesday that consumer confidence plunged in October to the lowest level since March 2009.

"The consumer's psyche is at its lowest point since the depths of the Great Recession" of 2008-2009, energy trader and consultant The Schork Group said in a report. "Given that consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic growth, that is worrisome."

In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 0.88 cent to $3.06 per gallon and gasoline futures lost 1.51 cents at $2.6596 per gallon. Natural gas advanced 1.7 cents at $3.675 per 1,000 cubic feet.

___

Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.




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