NEW YORK – The price of oil edged higher Thursday as the U.S. economy grew more than expected in the third quarter.
Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery rose 18 cents at $97.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil rose near $98 for the first time in five weeks before falling back a bit. Oil is still up $4.66 a barrel, or 5 per cent, this week.
Meanwhile, natural gas rose to the highest level in six months as the Energy Department reported a large decline in supplies and cold weather had homeowners turning up the thermostat in many states.
The Commerce Department said the U.S. economy grew at a 3.6 per cent annual rate from July through September, the fastest since early 2012. The numbers signalled some momentum in the economy, although some economists cautioned that nearly half the growth came from a buildup in business stockpiles, a trend that could reverse in the current quarter.
Natural gas added 17 cents to $4.13 per 1,000 cubic feet, the highest closing price since May 29. Natural gas in storage fell by 162 billion cubic feet last week, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decline of 143 billion cubic feet. Cold weather is covering the western and middle parts of the country and is heading east.
At the gas pump, the average price for a gallon of gas fell 1 penny to $3.25. That’s down 3 cents from a week ago, and is 13 cents cheaper than at this time last year.
Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 90 cents to $110.98 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to $2.71 a gallon.
— Heating oil shed 1 cent to $3.05 a gallon.