Oil rises on hopes of avoiding debt default


NEW YORK — Oil traders appeared more confident than stock traders Tuesday that the U.S. can avoid defaulting on its debt.

Benchmark crude for November delivery rose 46 cents to close at $103.49 a barrel, at point rising above $104. Meanwhile, stocks fell on worries that the budget standoff in Washington could jeopardize the nation’s ability to pay its bills.

“Unlike the stock market, the energy complex appears to be pricing in an avoidance of a US debt ceiling crisis next week,” wrote Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, in a note to clients.

Oil prices have bounced around between $101 and $104 a barrel after the U.S. government was forced to partially halt operations last week. A deadline is also approaching for raising the nation’s borrowing limit. If Congress doesn’t raise the limit by Oct. 17, the country could face its first-ever debt default, which experts warn could seriously harm the global economy.

A new corporate earnings period in the U.S. could divert the market’s attention from the government stalemate, at least temporarily.

As usual, aluminum giant Alcoa kicks off the quarterly earnings season after Wall Street closes Tuesday. While Alcoa is no longer a member of the Dow Jones industrial average, it is considered a bellwether for commodities. Its results will be watched for signs about global manufacturers’ demand for the lightweight metal in a stubbornly slow-growing economy.

At the pump, the average price for gasoline remained at $3.35 a gallon. The price is 22 cents lower than a month ago and 47 cents cheaper than at this time last year.

Brent, the benchmark for international crudes, gained 48 cents to $110.16 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.