Crude oil climbs to start a new year

Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose to more than $103 per barrel Tuesday as stock indexes climbed in Asia and Europe.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil closed out 2011 at slightly less than $99 per barrel, a gain of about 8 percent from the start of the year.

While oil prices bounced from a 2011 low of $76 per barrel to a high of $113, oil remained consistently above historic averages, making spending on oil the highest on record, despite slower U.S. demand.

Analysts said the price is now pushed by emerging economies, not exactly taking the United States out of the pricing loop but reducing its influence.

“America is getting used to the idea that we have a price to pay for high oil [consumption]. Many people are dismissing the idea of $100 oil. But this is the reality. It’s going to be higher next year. We’re going to see improvement in the economy. We’ve proven over the past year that the economy can grow with high oil prices. We grow; we adapt,” Carl Larry, president of research firm Oil Outlooks & Opinions, told The Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, February delivery crude oil added $4.20 to reach $103.03 per barrel. Heating oil prices gained 7.71 cents to $3.0448 per gallon. Reformulated blendstock gasoline prices added 5.42 cents to $2.7639 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices gained 5.3 cents to $2.983 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline was unchanged from Monday at $3.279 per gallon, AAA said. Gasoline prices are starting the year up slightly more than 20 cents per gallon, compared to a year ago.

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