The price of oil fell near $97 a barrel Thursday as unemployment claims rose more than expected.
Benchmark oil for March delivery fell 72 cents to $97.22 a barrel in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Oil is still up more than $5 for the month of January, making it the biggest monthly increase since August.
Those gains are reflected in pump prices. The average price of a gallon of gas has risen 10 cents in just the past week, to $3.42 a gallon, according to AAA, Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. Gas hasn't averaged more than $3.40 a gallon since the last day of November.
The government said the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week, although it remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. A separate report showed that consumer spending slowed in December when compared with November.
Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 33 cents to $114.77 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline lost 4 cents to $3 per gallon.
- Natural gas fell 8 cents to $3.26 per 1,000 cubic feet.
- Heating oil was down 1 cent at $3.10 a gallon.