NYMEX-Crude hovers near $91, 'fiscal cliff' in focus

SEOUL, Dec 27 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures remained close

to $91 a barrel on Thursday, with investors hoping resumed

budget talks in the United States will avert tax hikes and

spending cuts that could dampen oil demand.

FUNDAMENTALS

* U.S. crude for February delivery had fallen 10

cents a barrel to $90.88 as of 0005 GMT. It settled up 2.7

percent at $90.98 a barrel on Wednesday.

* Brent previously closed up 2.1 percent at $111.07.

* As President Barack Obama cut short a Christmas vacation

to resume talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of automatic

year-end tax hikes and spending cuts, the White House on

Wednesday called on congressional Republicans not to stand in

the way of a resolution in the U.S. Congress.

* Any decline in oil prices was limited by news that

temperatures across much of the northern half of the United

States are expected to be colder than normal during the first

quarter.

* Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a senior diplomat to

Moscow on Wednesday to discuss proposals to end the conflict

convulsing his country made by international envoy Lakhdar

Brahimi, Syrian and Lebanese sources said.

* Security forces in the United Arab Emirates have arrested

a cell of UAE and Saudi Arabian citizens which was planning to

carry out militant attacks in both countries and other states,

the official news agency WAM said on Wednesday.

MARKETS NEWS

* U.S. stocks fell for a third straight day on Wednesday,

dragged lower by retail shares after a report showed consumers

spent less in the holiday shopping season than last year. The

Dow Jones industrial average closed 0.19 percent down at

13,114.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 0.48

percent to 1,419.83.

* Japan's benchmark Nikkei average opened up 0.63

percent at 10,295.26 on Thursday, while the broader Topix

gained 0.71 percent to 853.70.

* The yen on Thursday traded close to a more than two-year

low against the dollar touched in the previous session. The euro

was at $1.3221, steady from late U.S. trading levels,

though down from Wednesday's session high of $1.3254.

DATA/EVENTS

* The following data is expected on Thursday (GMT):

0500 Japan Construction orders yy Nov 2012 JPCORD=ECI

1330 U.S. Jobless claims Weekly ECONUS

1500 U.S. New home sales Nov ECONUS

2130 U.S. API weekly crude stocks Weekly USOIAC=ECI

2130 U.S. API weekly dist. stocks Weekly USOIAD=ECI

2130 U.S. API weekly gasoline stk Weekly USOIAG=ECI

2300 S.Korea Industrial output yy Nov 2012 KRIOY=ECI

2313 Japan Manufacturing PMI Dec 2012 JPRPMI=ECI

2330 Japan CPI, core nationwide yy Nov 2012 JPCPI=ECI

2350 Japan Industrial output prelim mm Nov 2012 JPIP1=ECI

2350 Japan IP forecast 1 mth ahead Nov 2012 JPIP2=ECI

:: Russia HSBC Mfg PMI Dec 2012 RUPMIM=ECI

(Reporting by Meeyoung Cho; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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