Oil Prices Near $79 on Hurricane Ida Fears

Oil prices climbed toward $79 a barrel Monday in Asia as Hurricane Ida threatened oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was up $1.32 to $78.75 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Ida, the first Atlantic hurricane to approach the United States this year, headed toward the Gulf Coast on Monday with 90 mph winds, and could make landfall as early as Tuesday.

Crude was also boosted by a falling U.S. dollar, which has moved inversely to oil for months as investors buy commodities as a hedge against inflation and a weaker U.S. currency. Oil rose to $82 last month, its 2009 high, from $32 in December.

The euro rose to $1.4972 in Asian trading Monday from $1.4885 on Friday while the dollar gained to 90.22 yen from 89.97.

Crude fell $2.19 to settle at $77.43 on Friday after the Labor Department said the unemployment rate jumped more than expected in October to 10.2 percent, the highest since 1983.

The dismal jobless data stirred concerns that U.S. consumer demand will remain sluggish despite an overall economic recovery. Investors will be eyeing third-quarter earnings reports this week from retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Macy's Inc. and JC Penney Co. for clues about the strength of consumer spending.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 2.94 cents to $2.03 a gallon. Gasoline for December delivery gained 3.06 cents to $1.95 a gallon. Natural gas for December delivery was steady at $4.60 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for December delivery rose $1.20 to $77.07 on the ICE Futures exchange.