Crude Oil Nears 26-Month High


"Oil advanced after MasterCard reported holiday sales rose 5.5%."

Oil traded near a 26-month high after a report showed U.S. retailers had their best holiday sales in five years and U.S. crude supplies were forecast to extend their biggest monthly decline since December 2006.

Oil advanced after MasterCard reported holiday sales rose 5.5% to $584 billion from Nov. 5 through Dec. 24, compared with 4.1% a year earlier. Oil inventories shrank for the fourth consecutive week, according to the median estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg News survey, the longest stretch of declines in a year.

"We're staying in the $90 area, with an eye on hitting $100 in the new year," said Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks & Opinions LLC in Houston. "Demand is picking up and should rise further in coming months."

Crude for February delivery gained $0.46 cents, or 0.5%, to $91.46 a barrel at 1:40 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures have advanced 15% this year. Crude touched $91.88, the highest price since October 2008, yesterday in intraday trading.

Brent crude for February settlement increased $0.49, or 0.5%, to $94.34 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.

U.S. fuel consumption averaged over four weeks, a measure of demand, rose to 19.7 million barrels a day in the period through Dec. 17, the highest level since February 2009, according to Energy Department data released last week.

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