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Oil above $103 on hopes US will avoid debt default

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Oil prices jumped above $103 a barrel on Thursday on hopes that U.S. political leaders are near a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

By midday in Europe, benchmark oil for November delivery was up $1.52, or 1.5 percent, to $103.13 a barrel, reversing most of Wednesday's decline of $1.88 a barrel.

House Republicans said they would advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's borrowing authority so it can continue to pay its bills on time.

Though the GOP proposal could avert an unprecedented federal default that the Obama administration has warned could occur as early as Oct. 17, it would not necessarily bring a quick end to the 10-day partial federal shutdown. Obama has insisted that Congress reopen the government and extend the debt limit without condition.

Meanwhile, investors were monitoring developments in Libya, where Prime Minister Ali Zidan was abducted by gunmen from the hotel where he resides. He was freed hours later, but the event reminded markets of the risk to supplies from key crude producers in the region.

In the U.S., however, supplies remain high. The Energy Department said crude stocks rose by 6.8 million barrels last week, more than three times above analysts' expectations, at a time of year when consumption is seasonally weak.

Demand is not expected to grow, either. In its latest monthly report, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries kept its main forecasts for oil consumption unchanged since last month. It estimates global crude demand at 89.7 million barrels a day in 2013.

Demand for OPEC's own crude is seen at 29.9 million barrels a day this year — that is 500,000 barrels a day less than in 2012 and is estimated to fall further to 29.6 million barrels a day in 2014.

Brent, the benchmark for international crudes, rose $2.45, or 2.3 percent, to $110.72 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Natural gas surged 8 cents to $3.76 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Wholesale gasoline jumped 8 cents to $2.70 per gallon.

— Heating oil added 5 cents to $3.07 per gallon.


Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Esam Mohammed in Tripoli, Libya, contributed to this report.