Friday, March 29, 2013

Oil little changed, natural gas steady above $4

NEW YORK (AP) ? The price of oil was little changed Thursday, while natural gas was steady a day after closing above $4 for the first time in a year and a half.

In morning trading in New York, benchmark oil for May delivery was up 12 cents to $96.70 a barrel. Oil has gained more than $4 in less than a week, driven by signs of strength in the U.S. economy.

Natural gas futures were unchanged. Wednesday's close at $4.07 per 1,000 cubic feet was the first above $4 since Sept. 14, 2011.

There are signs the U.S. is whittling away at the glut of supply that built up over the past few years and pushed natural gas prices down to 10-year lows. Data released by the Energy Department Thursday show inventories are about 27 percent below year-ago levels, although still about 4 percent above the five-year average.

The oil market was tempered by caution as Cypriot banks reopened for the first time since March 16. The banks were shut as political leaders negotiated an emergency bailout to prevent a banking collapse. The contentious deal reached Monday will force losses on bigger depositors, which many analysts have said could spark a crisis of confidence in banking across the 17 countries that use the euro.

No disturbances were reported as people across Cyprus formed long but orderly lines at ATMs and banks.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was down 31 cents to $109.38 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

? Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $3.10 a gallon.

? Heating oil was flat at $3.04 a gallon.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.


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