SINGAPORE ? Oil prices fell below $98 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as European leaders raced to contain the continent's debt crisis and keep the euro currency block intact.
Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 46 cents to $97.75 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.44 to settle at $98.21 on Monday.
In London, Brent crude was down 49 cents at $108.51 on the ICE futures exchange.
Crude has zigzagged near $100 for the last two weeks as traders speculate whether Europe's debt crisis will break apart the 17-nation euro currency zone. European leaders are scrambling to keep contagion from spreading, and the more creditworthy nations such as Germany are considering large bond buys from the most indebted countries, such as Greece and Italy.
"The on-again, off-again resolutions to the debt situation in the U.S. and Europe, in relation to oil prices, are dizzying," energy consultant and trader The Schork Group said in a report. "For the time being in the oil market, fundamentally driven headlines matter less and faux promises from American and European technocrats matter more."
Crude jumped above $100 before settling lower Monday on news U.S. shoppers spent nearly $1 billion more on Black Friday ? the day after Thanksgiving and the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season ? than they did a year ago.
In other Nymex trading, natural gas added 4.5 cents to $3.57 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 2.6 cents to $2.99 a gallon and gasoline slid 1.2 cents to $2.51 a gallon.