Oil prices drop after European finance ministers put off releasing Greece's next payment

Oil prices fell Tuesday, after European finance ministers put off the release of the next installment of debt-mired Greece's urgently needed bailout loan.

Benchmark oil for December delivery fell 81 cents at midday Bangkok time to $84.76 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 50 cents to finish at $85.57 per barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

Crude oil prices have been caught among data showing improving export growth for China, an economic contraction in Japan for the latest quarter and "continued uncertainty about the latest Greece deal," Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets, said in an email commentary.

Greece's international creditors failed to agree Monday on how to get the country's bailout program back on track. The release of the next batch of loans that Athens is using to pay its day-to-day bills was put off until Nov. 20.

The European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission have twice agreed to bail out Greece, pledging a total of €240 billion in rescue loans. The country has received about €150 billion of those loans so far.

Meanwhile, the U.S. still appears headed for the so-called fiscal cliff — a combination of tax hikes and government spending cuts that will take effect Jan. 1 unless President Barack Obama and Congress can reach a compromise to avert it. Economists believe that would hurt growth in the world's largest economy and possibly risk a recession.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, dropped 72 cents to $108.35 per barrel in London.

Among other energy futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Heating oil fell 1.4 cents to $2.9852 per gallon.

— Gasoline futures dropped 1.9 cents to $2.6199 per gallon.

— Natural gas rose 2.1 cents to $3.591 per 1,000 cubic feet.