– New York-traded crude oil prices fluctuated between small gains and losses in Asian trading on Tuesday after U.S. manufacturing gauges missed market expectations and painted a picture of a still-weak U.S. economy that will demand less fuel and energy going forward than once anticipated.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in March traded down 0.02%at USD96.63 a barrel during Asian trading.

On Monday, the New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of USD96.54 a barrel and a high of USD96.73 a barrel. The March contract settled at USD96.65 a barrel.

Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at USD95.22 a barrel, the low from Jan. 27, and resistance at USD98.58 a barrel, Thursday''s high.

Oil prices suffered after the Institute for Supply Management said its widely-watch manufacturing gauge fell to a seven-month low in January, as new orders slumped.

The ISM’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index came in at 51.3 in January, down from 57.0 in December.

Analysts were expecting the index to inch down to 56.4 in January.

The report added new order growth fell at its fastest rate in 33 years, with the new orders index dropping to 51.2 from 64.4 in December. The employment index fell from 55.8 in December to 52.3, the weakest since June.

Also on Monday, U.K.-based Markit reported that its U.S. manufacturing PMI came in at a three-month low of 53.7 for January, missing expectations for a 53.8 reading.

Curbing losses, however, were the monetary implications of soft U.S. economic indicators.

The Federal Reserve is likely to very gradually wind down its monthly bond-buying program, which weakens the dollar to spur recovery.

A weaker greenback often makes commodities like oil more attractive on dollar-denominated exchanges.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for March delivery were down 0.01% and trading at 106.00 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at USD9.37 a barrel.

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