Oil near $104 after successful Spain debt sale

April 16, 2012 

LONDON (AP) - Oil prices rose to near $104 a barrel Tuesday after a successful Spanish debt sale eased fears over Europe's debt crisis and investors look to U.S. earnings for signs of health in consumer spending.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 76 cents to $103.69 a barrel by late morning European time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 10 cents to settle at $102.93 in New York on Monday.

Brent crude for June delivery was up 24 cents at $118.92 per barrel in London.

Spain sold €3.2 billion ($4.2 billion) of 12- and 18-month bonds at an auction Tuesday, a day after a jump in its bond yields sparked concern that it may eventually need an international bailout to avoid a debt default.

Most analysts are forecasting a mild recession in Europe this year, but renewed contagion from the continent's debt crisis could further hurt economic growth.

A strong investor confidence survey in Germany and robust retail sales data in the U.S., where consumer spending is a huge driver of growth, further buoyed investor sentiment.

Traders will keep an eye on corporate earnings for signs of momentum in consumer spending. International Business Machines Corp., the world's largest technology services company, Coca-Cola Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Intel Corp. and Johnson & Johnson will report.

Stock markets, which oil traders often look to as a measure of overall investor sentiment, rose ahead of the Wall Street open on Tuesday.

Investors are also mulling the impact of meetings last weekend about Iran's nuclear program. Talks among Iran and six world powers didn't produce any concrete agreements, but negotiators said the tone was better than previous meetings, and the sides agreed to meet again on May 23.

Concern that a military strike by Israel and the U.S. against Iran's nuclear facilities would disrupt global crude supplies has helped push crude up from $75 in October. Iranian crude output has fallen in recent months as the U.S. and Europe begin to impose economic sanctions on OPEC's second-biggest producer.

"While the recent Iran talks were 'constructive', they did not offer much in the way of providing markets with any sense of supply certainty," NAB said.

In other energy trading, heating oil was up 1.7 cents at $3.13 per gallon and gasoline futures gained 0.6 of a cent to $3.27 per gallon. Natural gas fell 0.2 of a cent to $2.01 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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