Oil near $100 as Greece approves austerity cuts

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By ALEX KENNEDY, Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices rose to near $100 a barrel Monday in Asia after the Greek parliament approved new austerity measures that should secure a bailout and avoid bankruptcy.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 88 cents at $99.55 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.17 to settle at $98.67 on Friday.

Brent crude was up 33 cents at $117.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.

The vote by Greek lawmakers — which came as rioters in central Athens torched buildings, looted shops and clashed with riot police — paves the way for Greece's European partners and the International Monetary Fund to release $170 billion (euro130 billion) in new rescue loans.

Without the bailout, Greece likely would default on its debt next month and leave the eurozone — a scenario that would have roiled global markets.

Oil prices have hovered near $100 for the last few months as signs of an improving U.S. economy bolstered investor confidence. However, the University of Michigan's measure of consumer confidence fell in February, and some analysts are blaming higher gasoline prices.

"The problem is that gasoline prices have recently jumped and this appears to have more than offset the positive developments," Capital Economics said in a report.

Some analysts expect weak global economic growth this year will push prices lower. The International Energy Agency said Friday that global oil demand will likely grow less than 1 percent this year.

"To be bullish from here, one would need to believe a supply disruption is coming," Morgan Stanley said in a report. "With fundamentals weakening, we believe that any further upside is unlikely without a supply shock."

In other energy trading, heating oil was up 3 cents at $3.21 per gallon and gasoline futures added 3.1 cents at $3.01 per gallon. Natural gas slid 5 cents to $2.43 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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