Oil slips below $99 a barrel; pump price rises

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil slipped a bit Monday after gaining more than $2 last week.

Benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery dropped 41 cents to close at $98.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Trading was thinner than usual because of the approaching holidays.

Last week, oil rose nearly 3 percent, largely because of signs of improvement in the U.S. economy. Positive economic news and a corresponding increase in demand have some analysts predicting that oil will soon top $100 a barrel for the first time since Mid-October.

Higher oil prices are showing up at the gas pump. The nationwide average price for a gallon of gas is up to $3.25, according to AAA. That's 2 cents more than a week ago and on par with average prices at this time last year.

Brent crude, a benchmark used to price international crudes used by many U.S. refiners, fell 21 cents to $111.56.

In other energy futures trading:

— Wholesale gasoline was flat at $2.78 a gallon.

— Heating oil lost 2 cents to $3.06 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 5 cents to $4.46 per thousand cubic feet.