Oil prices close mixed
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NEW YORK, Dec 20 AFP
December 21 2012, 08:09AM
Oil prices were mixed on Thursday amid a stalemate in Washington over ways to stop the world's largest economy from going over the "fiscal cliff."
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for February delivery, gained 15 cents to settle at $US90.13 a barrel.
Brent North Sea crude for February delivery dipped 16 cents to close at $US110.20 a barrel in London trade.
The United States faces falling off the so-called fiscal cliff in the absence of a deal to avert a series of tax hikes and spending cuts that are due to take effect in January.
"The market is still weighing the result of the fiscal cliff negotiations," said Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates.
Traders remain fearful that failure to reach compromise before an end of year deadline could plunge the world's biggest economy back into recession and ravage global oil demand.
President Barack Obama and top Republican John Boehner had appeared to soften their stances in recent days but talks appeared to stall as Boehner pressed ahead with a controversial "Plan B" that extends tax breaks for everyone earning less than $1 million per year. Obama, however, has said he is willing to go no higher than $US400,000.
Lawmakers in the House of Republicans were due to vote on the measure later on Thursday.
Traders also took in official data showing that the US economy grew 3.1 per cent in the third quarter, faster than previously estimated, as well as a boost in the sales of existing homes, which reached a three-year high in November.
The increase, however, was tempered by a 17,000 increase in initial jobless claims to 361,000 in the week ending December 15, as well as a decline of a leading economic index.