Oil near $95 in Asia on hopes of stronger US data

Oil climbs to near $95 a barrel in Asia amid hopes of more favorable US economic data

Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Oil prices climbed to near $95 a barrel Tuesday in Asia, buoyed by gains in the region's stock markets and in anticipation of improved U.S. economic data.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was up 95 cents to $94.83 a barrel at late afternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 35 cents to settle at $93.88 on Monday.

Asian stock markets bounced back Tuesday as concerns eased that the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could spark political turmoil.

Energy analysts Cameron Hanover said Kim's son and successor Kim Jong Un may need up to two years to consolidate his power and is unlikely to take a more militant stance toward the North's longtime rival South Korea.

It said European debt remains the biggest concern in financial markets. On Friday, Moody's downgraded Belgium's credit rating by two notches.

Those worries were set aside in the oil market as investors hoped for stronger U.S. housing and gross domestic product figures due out later this week, said Ritterbusch and Associates. Crude has fallen from above $100 earlier this month on expectations that Europe's debt crisis will trigger a recession on the continent next year and undermine global oil demand.

In other energy trading on the Nymex, natural gas rose 3.2 cents to $3.13 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil added 3.6 cents to $2.83 a gallon and gasoline futures were up 2.9 cents to $2.53 a gallon.

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