NEW YORK - Crude oil moved higher in thin trading Monday, as a weaker U.S. dollar buoyed futures to a two-week-plus high.
Light, sweet crude for September delivery rose 80 cents, or 0.9%, to settle at $92.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement price since July 19. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe settled 61 cents, or 0.6%, higher at $109.55 a barrel.
With no fresh economic data or central bank announcements, trading volumes were "surprisingly light," said Peter Donovan, vice president of Vantage Trading. Total volumes were around 355,500 Monday, compared to 613,056, the average daily volume over the past 12 months.
Oil prices generally tracked the euro after it rose against the dollar Monday morning. Dollar-traded oil can gain on a weaker dollar, which makes the black liquid less expensive to traders paying with foreign currencies.
Still, futures traded within a tight range through the day, failing to break above their July 19 high of $92.66 a barrel. "I don't think that we're going to see a dramatic move unless we break the mid-$92 level," said Tariq Zahir, managing member for Tyche Capital Advisors.
Futures jumped nearly 60 cents in morning trading in New York after a rumor circulated that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been killed. The rumor was started by a Twitter account attributed to the Russian interior minister, but the Russian Interior Ministry later denied issuing any statement about President Assad, according to Reuters.
"In this age of fast-moving Twitters and tweets, a well-placed story can move the market, and that looks like what happened," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group.
The event demonstrated how responsive the oil market remains to news of disruption in the Middle East. Though Syria is a relatively small oil producer, hints of unrest in the region continue to stoke fears that global oil production could be threatened.
"The markets are paying a lot of attention to what's going on in the Middle East," Mr. Donovan said.
Investors are also keeping an eye on tropical storm developments in the Atlantic Ocean, but none are currently forecast to threaten oil supplies in the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Ernesto is headed south of the Gulf, and a post-tropical cyclone located farther offshore is expected to weaken in the next few days, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Front-month September reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, fell 0.88 cents, or 0.3%, to $2.9222 a gallon. September heating oil rose 1.48 cents, or 0.5%, to $2.9409 a gallon.