Oil down slightly; traders await US reports

Oil drops slightly as traders await fresh US economic reports; gas prices average about $3.30

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil is staying right where it's been most of the year — in the vicinity of $93 per barrel.

Benchmark oil fell 11 cents to $93.45 per barrel in midday trading in New York. Last week oil rose just 50 cents.

After rising more than 1 percent on Jan. 2 following a deal in Washington to extend tax cuts for most Americans and postpone drastic spending cuts, oil has had few catalysts to move in any direction. Economic news has been mixed and global supplies appear to be ample, with no major disruptions to production in oil-producing nations.

Traders will see some fresh reports this week on the U.S. economy. Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, wrote in a note to clients that oil could move higher this week if data on U.S. industrial production, housing starts and other indicators show the economy is getting stronger.

With oil prices in a holding pattern, U.S. drivers can reliably gauge their costs at the pump. The national average is about $3.30 a gallon, up just a penny since Jan. 1.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, was up 37 cents to $111.01 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $2.74 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 3 cents to $3.04 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 5 cents to $3.39 per 1,000 cubic feet, continuing a rally from late last week.

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AP Business Writer Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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