By The Associated Press
NEW YORK, N.Y. – The price of oil was little changed Thursday, while natural gas was steady a day after closing above US$4 for the first time in a year and a half.
In morning trading in New York, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery was up 12 cents at US$96.70 a barrel. Oil has gained more than $4 in less than a week, driven by signs of strength in the U.S. economy.
Natural gas futures were unchanged. Wednesday’s close at US$4.07 per 1,000 cubic feet was the first above $4 since Sept. 14, 2011.
There are signs the U.S. is whittling away at the glut of supply that built up over the past few years and pushed natural gas prices down to 10-year lows. Data released by the Energy Department Thursday show inventories were about 27 per cent below year-ago levels, although still some four per cent above the five-year average.
The oil market was tempered by caution as Cypriot banks reopened for the first time since March 16. The banks were shut as political leaders negotiated an emergency bailout to prevent a banking collapse. The contentious deal reached Monday will force losses on bigger depositors, which many analysts have said could spark a crisis of confidence in banking across the 17 countries that use the euro.
No disturbances were reported as people across Cyprus formed long but orderly lines at ATMs and banks on Thursday.
Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was down 31 cents at US$109.38 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, wholesale gasoline fell one cent to US$3.10 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres) and heating oil was flat at US$3.04 a gallon.