Oil prices rise on housing data, "fiscal cliff" talks

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NEW YORK The price of oil rose Wednesday after President Barack Obama indicated he would cut his Christmas holiday short and head to Washington to try to work out a deal to keep the U.S. from heading over the "fiscal cliff."

The price of oil is rising sharply on higher U.S. home prices and hopes of a budget deal in Washington.

U.S. benchmark crude jumped $2.31, or 2.6 percent, to $90.92 a barrel Wednesday in thin post-Christmas trading.

U.S. home prices rose in most major cities in October compared with a year ago, according to a key report. The improvement is adding to economic growth, which generally boosts energy consumption and lifts prices.
Also, President Barack Obama will return to Washington Thursday after a brief vacation to resume budget talks with Congress. Negotiations are aimed at avoiding the "fiscal cliff," the deep budget cuts and tax increases that could slow U.S. growth.

On Monday, concerns over the budget pushed down oil prices. Benchmark crude closed 5 cents lower at $88.61.

In other energy futures trading:

- Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 45 cents to $109.25 a barrel.

- Natural gas fell 3.5 cents to $3.311 per 1,000 cubic feet.

- Heating oil rose 1.5 cents to $3.0034 a gallon.

- Wholesale gasoline rose 0.8 cents to $2.7588 a gallon.

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