File photo.

Oil prices climbed on Thursday as U.S. political leaders prepared for one last try at reaching a budget deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Benchmark oil for February delivery rose 21 cents at midday Bangkok time to $91.19 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices rose sharply Wednesday on higher U.S. home prices and hopes of a budget deal in Washington. The contract jumped $2.37, or 2.7 percent, to finish at $90.98 per barrel in thin post-Christmas trading in New York.

President Barack Obama was returning to Washington on Thursday after a brief vacation to resume budget talks with Congress. Negotiations are aimed at avoiding the “fiscal cliff,” the deep budget cuts and tax increases that would kick in on January 1 and that some say would send the U.S. into another recession.

Later Thursday, the Conference Board will release its December survey of consumer confidence. The forecast is that the confidence index declined to a reading of 71 from 73.7 in November. A separate survey last week from the University of Michigan showed consumer confidence tumbled this month. Consumers may be starting to worry about whether Congress and Obama can reach a budget deal.

In London, Brent crude, used to price various kinds of foreign oil, fell 20 cents to $110.87 per barrel. In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

- Heating oil fell marginally to $3.0348 a gallon.

- Wholesale gasoline rose 0.4 cents to $2.8199 a gallon.

- Natural gas fell 3.7 cents to $3.355 per 1,000 cubic feet. -Sapa-AP