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Oil jumps as US lawmakers avert "fiscal cliff"

HONG KONG (AP) — Oil prices rallied Wednesday after U.S. lawmakers passed legislation to avoid a "fiscal cliff" that would have pushed the world's biggest economy into recession.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted near midnight to send the bill to President Barack Obama after a frantic day of political brinksmanship in Washington.

Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 95 cents late afternoon in Hong Kong to $92.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.02 to finish at $91.82 per barrel in New York on Monday.

Economists had warned that if Congress did not take action, the series of tax increases and spending cuts that technically took effect at midnight on Jan. 1 could send the U.S. into recession. They feared a spike in unemployment, which would have resulted in depressed demand for energy.

Some House Republicans at first opposed the bill, which neutralizes middle class tax increases and $24 billion in spending cuts set to take effect over the next two months while raising taxes on the wealthy. They wanted more spending cuts but hours later agreed to a simple yes-or-no vote on the bill, which had already passed the Senate.

Brent crude, used to price various kinds of international oil, rose 73 cents to $111.84 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 2.6 cents to $2.7881 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 1.2 cents to $3.0433 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.6 cents to $3.335 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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