BANGKOK – Robust retail sales in the U.S. ahead of the Christmas holiday helped boost oil prices above $88 a barrel on Tuesday.
Benchmark oil for January delivery was up 29 cents to $88.03 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 54 cents to close at $87.74 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.
Holiday shopping in the U.S. got off to a brisk start over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, with a record 247 million shoppers visiting stores and websites — a 9.2 percent increase over last year. Total spending over the four-day weekend totaled $59.1 billion, up 12.8 percent from 2011.
And it's not over. Americans took to the Web for "Cyber Monday," what is typically the biggest online shopping day of the year. Shoppers were expected to spend a record $1.5 billion on the Web.
Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinions said all that gift-buying bodes well for energy demand, which in turn pushes up prices.
"All of these goods being purchased start out at point A and eventually have to get to point B. That means more cargo jets, more trucks delivering good to stores and more consumers driving to get to them," Larry said in a market commentary.
Traders were also relieved that negotiations over the next installment on Greece's bailout proved successful. Greece will get the cash it needs to pay its bills while negotiators from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund come together on a deal to reduce the country's debt load.
Brent crude, which is used to set prices for many international varieties of oil, rose 8 cents to $111 a barrel in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.3 cents to $2.707 a gallon.
— Natural gas gained 8 cents to $3.738 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil rose 0.6 cents to $3.066 a gallon.
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