NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Oil prices were choppy Monday as traders weighed U.S. debt default concerns with promising rhetoric about the latest annual meeting of world leaders and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' plans for coping with potential demand weakening.
Brent crude oil for December delivery up 12 cents to $102.58 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude oil for November delivery was down 47 cents to $79.38 at the time of this writing.
Oil prices were choppy as traders acted on conflicting perspectives on where the economy was headed.
Some felt a sense of hopelessness -- certain that the U.S. had no choice but to default on debt. In their eyes, recession, or even a depression was inevitable in the world's No. 1 importer of oil.
"It may be that a number of investors has gotten to the point where they feel it is impossible to pay $14 trillion back," said analysts at Cameron Hanover, as firm specializing in energy price risk.
"And they may also have come to the conclusion that political needs will not allow for any real stimulus -- from either the
or the government"
On the other hand, there's the notion that OPEC has controls in place to handle such situations -- where the oil cartel can keep prices in check even with a plummet in global demand.
The organization is already warning that it will cut oil production in response to a recession or due to a return of Libyan oil production.
"Knowing that Saudi Arabia probably needs an oil price of $90 a barrel or more to balance its budgets in 2012, it is hard to imagine that the oil price will be much lower than this in 2012, even with softer global growth and eurozone debt issues," SEB's chief commodities analyst Bjarne Schieldrop pointed out.
During the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, OPEC cut 4.2 million barrels of crude oil production that lead to a quick recovery in oil prices.
Also keeping a floor under oil price declines Monday was a general lift in risk sentiment across the equity markets -- oil generally trades with the stock market -- as world leaders vowed to rein in European debt default risks at the latest annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund.
Although the differentials between Brent and WTI remain strong on Monday -- with WTI still submerged in a surplus of supplies -- Kingsview Financial trader Matthew Zeman said they look "stretched."
The trading of these spreads, said Zeman, "seems overdone and likely to tighten ... out of whack."
Oil stocks were trading in mixed territory.
was falling 0.3% to $73.49;
was losing 1% to $65.95;
was rising 1% to $70.03;
was advancing 1.1% to $70.04;
was giving up 1.2% to $25.29;
was falling 1.2% to $21.79; and
was down 0.5% to $3.98.
-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.
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