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Oil ends down slightly, natural gas falls 3.3 percent

Benchmark oil slipped 5 cents to end at $93.10 per barrel in New York trading.

The Associated Press

1/9/2013

NEW YORK — The price of oil barely budged Wednesday, while natural gas plunged to the lowest level since late September.

Benchmark oil slipped 5 cents to end at $93.10 per barrel in New York trading. After rising on the year's first trading day following the resolution of a budget standoff in Washington, oil has been holding around $93.

That hasn't been the case with natural gas. The fuel has dropped 7 percent since the start of the year as forecasts point to warmer than expected weather in parts of the U.S. About half of the nation's households use natural gas for heat.

Natural gas futures closed down 10.5 cents, or 3.3 percent, to finish at $3.11 per 1,000 cubic feet. The price had been at or above $3.20 since Sept. 26.

For oil, a report of rising U.S. crude supplies offset a forecast for higher aluminum demand this year from Alcoa.

The Energy Information Agency said that U.S. crude supplies grew by 1.3 million barrels last week, while gasoline stocks increased by 7.4 million barrels, or 3.3 percent. The gas supply was significantly above analysts' expectations.

Oil supplies are about 8 percent higher than a year ago, and oil production in the U.S. — at 7 million barrels per day — is at levels not seen since the 1990s.

Late Tuesday Alcoa predicted that aluminum demand would rise 7 percent this year, slightly better than the 6 percent increase in 2012. That indicates the company expects a pickup in economic activity, which in turn could boost demand for oil.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, dropped 18 cents to end at $111.76 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to finish at $2.78 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 1 cent to end at $3.07 a gallon.

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