Benchmark crude for November delivery rose 13 cents to $76.66 a barrel in midday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
At the pump, the national average for a gallon of regular dipped to $2.691 on Tuesday, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That’s 3 cents lower than a week ago, although it remained 19.2 cents higher than a year ago.
While the Conference Board’s monthly report on consumer confidence fell to its lowest level since February, economic data that preceded it this month was more encouraging and has helped the stock market rally through September. Things looked brighter in Europe as well, where the latest data showed Germans grew more confident in their nation’s economic recovery.
U.S. investors cheered corporate deals that included Endo Pharmaceuticals $1.2 billion bid for Qualitest Pharmaceuticals. That followed Monday’s announcements that Southwest Airlines will buy AirTran Airways and Wal-Mart plans to acquire South African retailer Massmart.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was about 20 points higher. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were little changed. Energy traders keep an eye on stocks for signs the economic recovery is gaining momentum.
They also hope that plentiful U.S. crude supplies will start to fall now as refineries cut some production for seasonal maintenance, said Andrew Lebow, a senior vice president and broker at MF Global.
Most traders «are anticipating that as we head into the fourth quarter and into the first quarter that we’re going to start to see the U.S. stock overhang to work off slowly but surely,» he said. «As a result, they think that prices could appreciate modestly.»
The Energy Department will release its weekly report on petroleum and gasoline inventories on Wednesday. Analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., expect crude oil inventories to build by 2.2 million barrels, gasoline supplies to increase by 800,000 barrels and distillate stocks, which include diesel and heating oil, to add 400,000 barrels.
Other energy contracts on the Nymex also rose but trading was expected to be volatile as many expire this week.
In October contracts, heating oil rose 1.76 cents to $2.1404 a gallon, gasoline added 1.56 cents at $1.9644 a gallon and natural gas gained 5.6 cents to $3.856 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude rose 59 cents to $79.16 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.