Oil prices up slightly ahead of U.S. election

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The price of oil rose slightly Tuesday, to above $86 a barrel, as investors awaited the results of the U.S. presidential election.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for December delivery was up 47 cents to $86.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 79 cents to finish at $85.65 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, was up 63 cents to $108.36 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

President Barack Obama is fighting for re-election in an extremely tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The uncertain outcome of the race for leader of the world's biggest economy has kept trading muted on financial and commodities markets this week.

The economic crisis in Greece is another factor traders are keeping an eye on. The Greek parliament holds a critical vote this week on a new austerity package that will impose further wage and benefit cuts.

Unions opposed to more austerity measures launched a 48-hour general strike on Tuesday. Police are bracing for violence in the debt-ridden country, now entering its sixth year of recession.

Lawmakers are expected to pass the measure. If not, Greece could lose vital rescue loans that have kept it afloat since May 2010 - raising the threat of bankruptcy and a euro exit.

Investors will also be monitoring fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products.

Data for the week ending Nov. 2 is expected to show a rise of 1 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 1 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration -- the market benchmark -- will be out on Wednesday.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

- Wholesale gasoline rose 2.64 cents to $2.6466 per gallon;

- Heating oil added 1.47 cent to $2.9976 per gallon;

- Natural gas fell 3.4 cents to $3.52 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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