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Oil little changed after US supply data

The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil was little changed Wednesday as rising U.S. supplies offset a strong report on U.S. consumer spending that pointed to growing demand for oil and gas in a strengthening economy.

Benchmark oil for April delivery fell 2 cents to close $92.52 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the first decline in the last five trading sessions.

Crude supplies rose by 2.6 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 384 million barrels, which is 10.5 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report. Analysts expected an increase of 2.3 million barrels for the week ended March 8.

That offset a positive report on retail sales. Americans increased their overall retail spending 1.1 percent last month compared with January, the government said. It was the sharpest increase in five months.

At the gas pump, the average price for a gallon rose slightly to $3.71. That's up 12 cents from a month ago, but down 10 cents from this time last year.

Sustained concerns about the global economy — highlighted in the latest monthly oil market report from the International Energy Agency — helped keep a lid on crude prices in recent weeks.

The Paris-based IEA lowered its expectations for global oil demand growth in 2013 by 20,000 barrels a day from its prediction last month. It now sees global appetite for crude this year at 90.6 million barrels a day.

"Continued deterioration in the European economic environment, signs of a potential slowdown in China and automatic U.S. government spending cuts combined to suggest that oil demand growth might remain relatively weak in 2013," the IEA said. "Together, these three economic 'hits,' affecting as they do the world's three largest economies and oil consumers, appear to further delay an elusive turnaround in global economic, and in turn oil demand, growth."

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, fell 99 cents to end at $108.24 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline lost 1 cent to finish at $3.14 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 2 cents to end at end at $2.92 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 4 cents to finish at $3.68 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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