Crude Oil Futures Slide

Crude oil futures also took a dip as economic data weighed on the markets.
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) -- Crude oil futures settled down nearly 2% ahead of bearish supply data late Tuesday.

Light, sweet crude for January delivery on the Nymex fell $1.54, or nearly 2%, to settle at $76.02 Tuesday afternoon. Later in the day, the American Petroleum Institute said crude oil inventories rose 3.347 million barrels, painting a weak energy demand picture.

Investors took their cue from a collection of data that gave an underwhelming impression of the economic recovery.

Government data showed that the economy expanded less than originally thought in the third-quarter, as the nation's

gross domestic product was revised down to a 2.8% annual growth rate from an initial 3.5% estimate.


Consumer Confidence Index ticked higher to 49.5 in November from 48.7 in October, though consumer pessimism abounds ahead of holiday shopping season.

"I have no problem with thinking the worst is behind us, but I think the 'V-shaped' recovery is pollyannaish thinking," says Stephen Schork, analyst and editor of the daily energy bulletin

The Schork Report

, about the morning data. "Jobs and demand are not turning around any time soon."

Still, Schork notes that traditional "book-squaring, more than fundamentals" during a volatile holiday-shortened week makes him less likely to read too much into the crude price slump today.

"I'm not getting too excited," adds Schork. "I wouldn't be surprised if we lost $1.50 or went higher by $1.50."

After spending most of the day in the red, most major integrated operations finished Tuesday's session higher.


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Exxon Mobil

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, finished up by 0.6%, 0.4% and 0.4%, respectively.

Inventory expectations for higher crude stockpiles weighed on energy prices. The Energy Information Administration will release a separate inventory report on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EST.

The January delivery contract for heating oil fell nearly 3 cents to $1.99 a gallon. Gasoline for January delivery declined 4 cents to $1.96 a gallon, while natural gas for January delivery fell nearly 3 cents to about $4.77.


Written by Sung Moss and Melinda Peer in New York