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Oil gets small boost from US supply report

The Associated Press


NEW YORK — Oil prices found little momentum Wednesday, even amid more signs of an improving U.S. economy.

Benchmark oil for April delivery rose 22 cents to $92.85 a barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was down from a high of $93.37, reached after another positive report on housing and government data showing U.S. oil supplies rose less than expected last week.

The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose in January from December to the highest level in almost three years. The National Association of Realtors' index for pending home sales rose 4.5 percent to the highest point since April 2010. The report boosted to U.S. stock markets, and the major indexes were up about 1 percent in afternoon trading.

Crude inventories increased by 1.1 million barrels, or 0.3 percent, to 377.5 million barrels, according to the weekly report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration. That was less than half the increase expected by analysts.

Still, supplies are 9.5 percent above year-ago levels, which likely kept traders' enthusiasm to buy in check.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, dipped 45 cents to $112.26 on the ICE Futures exchange In London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was down 4 cents at $3.15 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 2 cents to $3.00 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 6 cents to $3.56 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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