NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil fell slightly Monday, the first decline in seven trading sessions.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery slipped $0.31 to $97.34 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil had gained $5.35 a barrel, or 5.8%, over the previous six trading days.

Meanwhile, natural gas rose above $4.20 for the first time since May 28, on the likelihood that homeowners turned up the heat to try to shake off the effects of two wintry storms that plowed across the country. Forecasts are for colder than normal temperatures in the Midwest this week.

Natural gas futures rose $0.12, or 2.9%, to $4.23 per $1,000 cubic feet.

U.S. drivers who braved the rough conditions in many areas paid an average of $3.26 a gallon for gasoline. That's down $0.09 from this time a year ago.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, dropped $2.22 at $109.39 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

  • Wholesale gasoline rose lost $0.01 to $2.67 a gallon.
  • Heating oil lost $0.04 to $3.01 a gallon.

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