Oil price rises to near $97 per barrel

The price of oil hovers around $97 per barrel but gains are muted ahead of Fed minutes

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- The price of oil rose toward $97 per barrel Tuesday, but gains were checked as investors waited for the Federal Reserve's latest views on the U.S. economy.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was up 16 cents to $96.87 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 69 cents to close at $96.71 on Monday.

On Wednesday, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke will appear before Congress and the central bank will release minutes of its most recent policy meeting. Traders will be looking for hints on what the Fed might be preparing to do in light of recent data that has pointed toward a sustained economic recovery.

There is ongoing speculation that the Fed might want to scale back or modify its super-loose monetary policy and its massive, $85 billion-a-month program of bond purchases intended to keep interest rates low and prop up the recovery.

"We hear some testimony from Big Ben Bernanke this week and we can only think that he's going to stick to his mantra. Meaning that he's status quo; the economy is moving along well, we would like to see it move faster, but we're doing all we can," said Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinions in an email commentary.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 21 cents to $105.01 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $2.893 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $2.946 a gallon.

— Natural gas gained 1.3 cents to $4.103 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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