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Crude Oil Ends Higher For Third Straight Day

U.S. crude oil futures closed higher for a third straight day Tuesday, despite a strengthening dollar on some soft economic data from the U.S. Home prices in major U.S. metropolitan areas dipped to a 10-year low in January, while a Conference Board report showed a modest pullback in consumer confidence in March.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for May delivery, added $0.30 or 0.3 percent to close at $107.33 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday.

Crude prices scaled a high of $107.32 a barrel intraday and a low of $106.19.

Yesterday, oil settled marginally higher as the dollar weakened, with possible indications of continued policy assist from the Fed. Addressing the National Association for Business Economics Annual Conference in Washington, the U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke observed that economic growth in the country may not be sustained.

The weak economic data from the U.S. also helped the greenback, with the euro trading lower against the dollar at $1.3341 on Tuesday, as compared to $1.3358 late Monday. The euro had scaled a high of $1.3385 intraday with a low of $1.3318.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. unit against six major currencies, traded at 79.026 on Tuesday, up from 78.896 in North American trade late Monday. The dollar scaled a high of 79.13 intraday, with a low of 78.77.

In economic news, home prices in major U.S. metropolitan areas showed a continued decline in January, according to a report by Standard & Poor's on Tuesday, with prices falling in line with economist estimates.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Home Price Index fell by an annual rate of 3.8 percent in January compared to a 4.1 percent year-over-year drop in December. The annual drop matched the expectations of economists.

After reporting a substantial improvement in U.S. consumer confidence for the month of February, the Conference Board report on Tuesday unexpectedly showed a modest pullback in confidence in the month of March.

The Conference Board consumer confidence index dropped to 70.2 in March from an upwardly revised 71.6 in February. Economists expected the index to edge up to 70.9 from the 70.8 originally reported for the previous month.

From the eurozone, Germany's consumer confidence is set to drop in April, a survey by market research group GfK showed. The forward-looking consumer sentiment index came in at 5.9, down slightly from 6 points in March. Economists were expecting it to remain stable at 6 points.

Economic expectations improved slightly once again and willingness to buy almost remained at the same high level, but income expectations fell, reversing the strong improvement of the previous month

Late in the day, the American Petroleum Institute will release its crude oil inventories report for the week ended March 23, ahead of the Energy Information Administration on weekly report on oil stockpiles Wednesday.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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