Benchmark U.S. crude gave up some early gains Monday on a surprise expansion of German exports and signs of increased oil consumption in China to finish lower. Concerns about the so-called fiscal cliff in the U.S. continued to dog traders and investors.
The German government said exports from Europe's biggest economy rose slightly in October after losing ground the month before. They were 10.6 percent higher than October a year ago.
In China, the world's second-largest economy after the U.S., crude imports last month were the highest in half a year. And for the first time, more than 10 million barrels per day were refined, noted Tradition Energy's Addison Armstrong. The oil data was released a day after another set of figures showed that China's industrial production and retail sales exceeded expectations in November.
Meanwhile President Barack Obama was in Detroit looking for more public support to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, a day after he and House Speaker John Boehner met for the first time to talk about ways to avoid the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to start in the new year.
Benchmark crude fell 37 cents to finish at $85.56 in New York. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 31 cents to end at $107.33 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Pump prices fell over the weekend and are now averaging $3.34 a gallon, 6 cents above a year ago. The national average is down more than 10 cents from a month ago.
Other futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange:
— Heating oil fell 1.91 cents to finish at $2.90 a gallon.
— Natural gas fell 9.1 cents to end at $3.46 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $2.60 a gallon.