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Oil rises to near $102 amid mixed US demand signs
Oil rises to near $102 in Asia after supply report shows mixed signs about US demand
By The Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) ' Oil prices rose to near $102 a barrel Wednesday in Asia after a crude supply report showed mixed signs about U.S. demand strength.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was up 49 cents to $101.77 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 29 cents to settle at $101.28 on Tuesday.

In London, Brent crude was up 28 cents at $111.09 on the ICE futures exchange.

The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories fell 5.0 million barrels last week while analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had predicted a drop of 1.3 million barrels.

However, inventories of gasoline rose 6.0 million barrels last week while distillates added 1.7 million barrels, the API said.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reports its weekly supply data later Wednesday.

Oil has bobbed near $100 for the last three weeks after jumping from $75 in October as signs of an improving U.S. economy offset investor fears of a coming recession in Europe.

"Money is always looking for ways to make more money," energy consultant and trader Blue Ocean Brokerage said in a report. "We've pretty much ruled out Europe for the next six months and the best-looking ugly girl left to dance is the U.S."

Traders are also closely watching whether possible sanctions imposed by Europe and the U.S. on Iran related to its nuclear energy program will pinch global crude supplies.

In other Nymex trading, natural gas added 0.5 cent at $3.49 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil gained 1.2 cents to $3.03 a gallon and gasoline futures dropped 2.4 cents to $2.64 a gallon.

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