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* U.S. fiscal worries, Europe's economy weigh on market
* Coming up: CFTC positions data 3:30 p.m. EST Friday
By Adam Kerlin
NEW YORK, Nov 9 Crude oil futures advanced on
Friday, boosted by a rise in U.S. consumer sentiment to a
five-year high and upbeat readings on the Chinese economy, while
gasoline futures surged even more on speculation over delivery
problems and tight supplies in storm-hit New York Harbor.
The harbor, delivery point for the NYMEX gasoline contract,
was still in flux 11 days after Superstorm Sandy struck the U.S.
Northeast. Many local terminal operations remained constrained,
refineries were shut and the retail supply chain was still
squeezed. New York City began rationing gasoline for the first
time since the 1970s.
Speculation about possible delays in delivering gasoline
against the expired November RBOB contract overshadowed broader
economic issues, such as concerns over Europe's debt woes and
the "fiscal cliff" facing the United States.
Brent December crude settled at $109.40 a barrel
after rising as high as $109.78 earlier, snapping three straight
weekly declines though still depressed by a host of
"The market is still just hovering above its four-month
lows," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in
U.S. December crude also settled higher, at $86.07,
having traded between $84.13 and $86.77 throughout the day.
Brent's stronger gains, supported by RBOBs oil
complex-leading rise, brought its premium over U.S. crude to
$23.33, up more than a dollar on the day.
However, U.S. gasoline stole the show as the December
contract rose nearly 10 cents to close at $2.705.
U.S. 'FISCAL CLIFF'
After initially receiving a boost from the strong U.S.
consumer sentiment, equities on Wall Street pared gains after
comments by President Barack Obama and House Representatives
Speaker John Boehner left investors little hope that a deal to
avoid the "fiscal cliff" was on the horizon.
Investors remain cautious that the United States, the
world's top oil consumer, is at risk of tipping into recession
if it fails to find a compromise to cut its deficit before
nearly $600 billion worth of spending cuts and tax increases
begin to kick in early next year.
Those concerns, against a backdrop of debt troubles in the
euro zone, have weighed on financial markets and led to oil
swinging in about a $7 range this week, its widest since late
Investors are also monitoring how the United States will
tackle the issue of the debt ceiling, which needs to be raised
to avoid a government shutdown.
"For the time being, the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff
in the U.S. will prevent any price recovery," analysts at
Commerzbank in Frankfurt said in a note.
Across the Atlantic, euro-zone finance ministers are to meet
on Monday in Brussels. The main topic of their discussions will
be thawing the freeze on lending to Greece.
Supportive October data from China underpinned oil prices on
Friday. Infrastructure investment accelerated and output from
the country's factories ran at its fastest in five months.
China's October exports rose more than 11 percent from a
year ago, and imports grew by 2.8 percent, Commerce Minister
Chen Deming said.
The data offered evidence that a cyclical recovery gained
strength last month after the Chinese economy in the third
quarter suffered the slowest period of growth since early 2009.
Separate data showed U.S. wholesale inventories rose in
September by the most in nine months as wholesalers sharply
boosted stocks of farm goods and oil.
(Reporting by Alice Baghdjian in London, Ramya Venugopal in
Singapore and Robert Gibbons in New York; Editing by Alden
Bentley, John Wallace and Leslie Adler)