The price of oil fell slightly but remained above US$102 on Friday, underpinned by U.S. demand for heating oil during a winter that does want to end.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery fell 55 cents to close at US$102.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract fell nine cents to close at $102.75.
Oil is up two per cent for the week, however, on higher demand for heating oil in the U.S. as forecasters predicted a return of more cold weather in the coming weeks after a brief warm spell.
"Market players are now looking at weather conditions in the U.S.; it's quite cold and heating oil demand is getting tighter so that is supporting the crude oil prices," said Tetsu Emori, commodity markets fund manager at ASTMAZ Futures Co. in Tokyo.
Analysts said the recent rising trend in oil prices, which climbed for the sixth week in a row, could be about to reverse, however, because of tempering global demand and ample supplies.
A report on manufacturing activity in China released Wednesday suggested global economic growth could weaken, which would reduce demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Also, supplies appear to be relatively strong in the U.S., despite the higher demand, according to this week's oil report from the U.S. Energy Department.
"Crude stocks in the U.S. were up week-on-week, while the draw in distillate inventories was lower than expected," said a report from JBC Energy in Vienna. "Together with the weak Chinese data from Wednesday, this took a part of the enthusiasm out of the recent rally."
Brent crude, a benchmark used to set prices for international varieties of crude used by many U.S. refineries, was down 45 cents to close at US$109.85 a barrel in London.
In energy futures trading in New York: wholesale gasoline fell 1.8 cents to close at US$3.003 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil fell 4.4 cents to close at US$3.039 a gallon and natural gas rose 7.1 cents to close at $6.135 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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