The price of oil edged higher Monday as traders waited to see how long a key transit route in the Gulf would be closed following an oil spill there.
Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery rose 14 cents to close at $99.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, slipped 11 cents to $106.81 a barrel
On Saturday, a barge carrying about 900,000 gallons of heavy oil collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel, spilling as much as 168,000 gallons into one of the world's busiest waterways. More than 80 ships have been forced to wait to enter or leave the bay.
Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, said the oil prices could shoot higher if the waterway isn't open by the end of the week.
Soft Chinese economic data kept a lid on prices Monday. The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index for China showed manufacturing dropped to an eight-month low, while factory output shrank at the fastest pace in 18 months.
Some investors bet the data would spur China to introduce economic stimulus measures to prevent a deeper slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $2.89 a gallon.
- Heating oil dropped 1 cent to $2.91 a gallon.
- Natural gas lost 4 cents to $4.28 per 1,000 cubic feet.