Oil Breaches $91 a Barrel in Light Trading

Oil prices on Tuesday reached the $91-a-barrel mark in light trading as strong demand and limited supply continues to push up prices toward the end of the year.

Oil for February delivery increased 27 cents to $91.27 a barrel in New York Mercantile Exchange trading Tuesday. It had been trading at about $81 a barrel about a month ago.

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The higher oil prices reflect tightened petroleum inventories and what may be a slight resurgence in the U.S. economy, which is increasing demand. U.S. commercial crude inventories totaled 340.7 million barrels for the week ended Dec. 17, down 5.3 million barrels from a week earlier, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said last week.

With demand from countries such as China and India expected to increase next year, oil may surpass the $100 level in early 2011, the Associated Press reported, citing commodities analysts. Higher oil prices are also pushing up gas prices. The national average gas price for regular unleaded is $3.05 a gallon, up about 18% from a year ago, according to AAA.

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