By The Associated Press
2014-02-07 03:22 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The price of oil rose Thursday as a positive report on the U.S. labor market and more cold temperatures boosted expectations of higher demand for heating oil.
Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up 25 cents to $97.63 a barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier rising above $98.
The Labor Department said the number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits declined 20,000 last week to 331,000, suggesting that Americans are facing fewer layoffs and better job prospects. Those figures came a day before a widely anticipated report on January employment.
With chilly temperatures across the middle of the U.S. and into the Northeast, demand for heating oil remains strong. That should boost refineries' need for crude oil.
Natural gas prices were volatile again. The price rose 7 percent to $5.40 per 1,000 cubic feet in the morning, but then fell sharply. The Energy Department said the nation's supply of natural gas dropped by 2.62 billion cubic feet last week. But analysts were expecting a decline of at least 273 billion cubic feet, according to Platts. Natural gas futures were down 9 cents at $4.84 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Brent crude, a benchmark for oil sold internationally, gained 63 cents to $106.88 on the ICE exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
-- Wholesale gasoline edged up 3 cents to $2.68 a gallon.
-- Heating oil fell 1 cent to $2.99 a gallon.