* U.S. budget talks stalled as cliff nears
* U.S. GDP expanded faster than expected in Q3, data shows
* New jobless claims up more than expected last week
* Coming up: U.S. CFTC positions data 3:30 p.m. EST Friday
NEW YORK, Dec 20 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil futures edged
higher while Brent futures slid in choppy trading on Thursday as
Republicans pushed their budget proposal but indicated their
will to work with the Obama administration to resolve the
nation's budget crisis.
U.S. crude settled 0.17 percent higher at $90.13 a
barrel, after trading between $89.26 to $90.54 a barrel in a
Brent crude settled slightly lower, however, down 16
cents at $110.20 a barrel. Both crude futures posted a weekly
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives cleared the
way for debate and votes on a proposal, dubbed "Plan B," that
Republicans are advancing in response to the automatic spending
cuts and higher taxes that could hit the economy next year,
should Congress and the Obama administration fail to agree on
how to deal with the nation's budget deficit.
House Speaker John Boehner said he expects to keep working
with President Barack Obama to avert the year-end "fiscal
cliff", while advancing his party's proposal, which will raise
taxes only on incomes over $1 million.
Favourable economic data from the U.S. Commerce Department
also boosted U.S. oil prices, after it showed the nation's Gross
Domestic product grew at a 3.1 percent annual rate in the third
quarter, compared with expectations for a 2.7 percent rise.
But dampening the good bit of economic news was the increase
in U.S. initial claims for unemployment benefits last week,
which was slightly larger than economists' projections.
Still, the market was thinly attended on Thursday with many
operators already off for the holidays.
"We are not expecting anything substantial on the budget
talks today so the long weekend may have started sooner. It
looks like everyone took the day off. " said Mark Anderle with
Tac Energy in Dallas.
U.S. STOCKS DRAWDOWN SUPPORTS
U.S. heating oil and RBOB gasoline futures led
the afternoon rally in the oil futures market, tracing gains
made in cash markets in the U.S. Gulf Coast and Chicago.
Heating oil futures settled 0.72 percent higher at $3.0575 a
gallon while RBOB gasoline ended up 0.41 percent at 2.7543 a
Traders were keeping a close eye on delayed restart of a
crude unit at Motiva Enterprises Port Arthur, Texas,
refinery and maintenance on a gasoline making crude unit at BP
Plc's Texas City refinery.
Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
published on Wednesday provided underlying support for heating
oil futures after it showed strong demand and lower inventory
levels. U.S. distillate stocks fell .09 million barrels to
116.97 million, versus expectations for a 1 million barrel
build, according to EIA data.
A bi-monthly report from the EIA showed the world's spare
oil production capacity rose slightly over the last two months
although stocks were depleted due to a seasonal demand rise.