Crude prices fell on Tuesday despite upbeat U.S. retails data, as concerns about oil demand and U.S. debt ceiling talks weighed on the market.
Concerns about U.S. debt ceiling returned to markets and weighed heavily after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke urged U.S. lawmakers late Monday to raise the country's debt ceiling to avoid a potentially disastrous debt default, warning that the economy was still at risk from political gridlock over the debt issue.
Ratings agency Fitch also warned on Tuesday that failure to raise the debt ceiling in time will prompt a review of the U.S. sovereign rating and the current negative outlook of AAA rating might be downgraded.
Crude prices got further pressure from Germany's economic contraction. According to data released on Tuesday, the largest economy of the euro zone shrank by 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, adding clouds to oil demand. But Germany's full- year GDP growth came in at 0.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the dollar rose on Tuesday against major currencies, posing more pressure to the dollar-denominated crude oil.
The U.S. economic data, however, came in positive, offering support to oil prices. The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales rose 0.5 percent in December, beating analysts' expectation.
The Empire Manufacturing Survey for January posted a reading of minus 7.8, although still indicating contraction, it is better than the reading of minus 8.1 the month before.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery lost 86 cents, or 0. 91 percent to settle at 93.28 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent crude for February delivery slipped 1.58 dollars, or 1. 41 percent to finish at 110.30 dollars a barrel.