Oil Falls to Near $97 on Ample Supplies

NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil fell another 1% Wednesday on higher U.S. supplies of crude and weak demand for fuel.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was down $1.15 to $97.15 a barrel in midday trading in New York. The price has fallen 5% over the last week to its lowest level since late June.

Brent crude, which is used to price international oil used at many U.S. refineries, was down $1.32 to $108.65 per barrel.

The U.S. Energy Department said in a report issued Wednesday that oil inventories rose by 5.2 million barrels over the past week. That followed the government's report released Monday that showed a 4-million-barrel increase in crude supplies for the week ended Oct. 11.

Gasoline inventories decreased by 1.8 million barrels, but supplies of both oil and gasoline are at the upper range of their average over the past five years.

Demand for fuels fell 1.5% compared to the same period last year.

Oil analyst Jim Ritterbusch said in a report Wednesday that the market looked "oversupplied" because of rising U.S. production.

Another factor in oil's recent decline, analysts say, is reduced risk of supply disruptions out of the Middle East -- and a possible return of more Iranian crude to the global market -- as talks between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program have restarted.

Meanwhile, the national average price of gasoline fell less than a penny to $3.34 per gallon. Robust supplies and falling crude prices are expected to push gasoline prices lower in the coming days, possibly below this year's low of $3.29 per gallon, set on Jan. 2.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

  • Wholesale gasoline fell $0.05 to $2.57 a gallon.
  • Natural gas rose $0.05 to $3.63 per 1,000 cubic feet.
  • Heating oil slipped $0.05 to $2.94 a gallon.

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