The price of oil held onto small gains Wednesday after the government reported a slight increase in U.S. crude supplies.
By afternoon in New York, benchmark crude for June delivery was up 36 cents to $95.98 a barrel. The contract fell 54 cents to finish at $95.62 per barrel on Tuesday.
The Energy Department said oil supplies grew last week by 200,000 barrels to 395.5 million barrels, which is 4.2 percent above year-ago levels. Analysts were expecting an increase of 1.9 million barrels in the week ended May 3.
Busy refineries explain the smaller than expected increase. Refineries operated at 87 percent of capacity last week, up 2.6 percentage points from the week before. Still, demand for gasoline fell 2.4 percent over the past four weeks, and demand for distillates, such as heating oil and diesel, also fell, helping to keep oil prices in check.
Brent crude, which is the benchmark for international oil varieties, was down 49 cents to $103.91 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline rose 1 cent to $2.85 a gallon.
- Heating oil fell 2 cents to $2.91 a gallon.
- Natural gas added 3 cents to $3.95 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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