U.S. Markets closed

Oil steady near $105

The Associated Press

The price of oil remained flat Monday ahead of information later this week on oil supplies, U.S. monetary policy and economic growth.

U.S. benchmark crude was up 23 cents per barrel to $104.93 in midday trading in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark used to price imported crude used by many U.S. refineries, rose 28 cents to $107.45.

Crude prices have fallen somewhat after they rose quickly in early July to reach nearly $110 per barrel in trading on July 19. The decline has helped stall and reverse a rise in the average retail price of gasoline.

The national average fell less than a penny to $3.63 per gallon Monday. Prices have fallen — slightly — every day for a week, dropping a total of 4 cents from $3.67 on July 19.

Traders are looking for clues Wednesday in an announcement by the Federal Reserve on whether and how long the Fed will scale back its stimulus plan. The Fed has been buying $85 billion of financial assets a month in an attempt to keep long-term borrowing rates low and help shore up the U.S. economic recovery.

Low interest rates make it easier and more attractive for investors to buy commodities such as oil, bolstering prices.

Traders may still be left wondering, though. "We look for the status quo to be maintained with few clues," wrote analyst Jim Ritterbusch in a report Monday.

The stimulus program is widely expected to be scaled down later this year as the economy improves.

Traders are also looking to see whether Energy Department will report another draw in oil supplies after dropping by a surprisingly large 30 million barrels over the past month.

Oil supplies remain high compared with the five-year average, even after the monthlong reduction, so most traders say it is more likely that oil prices will soon fall than that they will rise further.

Analysts at Commerzbank added that the Nymex contract had developed a "considerable potential for correction, which points to further price falls in the coming days."

In other trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline was flat at $3.00 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 1 cent to $3.02 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 12 cents $3.44 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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