(AP) The price of oil fell below $96 per barrel Friday as stockpiles of crude outpaced expectations.
Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 15 cents to $95.80 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 72 cents to finish at $95.95 a barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.
Recent optimism about improving economies in the U.S. and China has helped support an upswing in oil prices. The U.S. housing and jobs markets have shown improvement, while China's manufacturing output has been gaining steam.
However, Michael Hewson of CMC Markets said that prices could slip back if crude inventories continue to rise. The Energy Information Administration said Thursday that U.S. oil supplies rose by 2.8 million barrels last week, more than analysts expected. That pushed oil stockpiles to 363.1 million barrels, up 8.5 percent from year-ago levels.
Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 24 cents to $113.04 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. Hewson said the price of Brent is stuck firmly in a dead zone of inactivity, but near its recent range highs.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
Wholesale gasoline fell 0.7 cent to $2.87 per gallon.
Natural gas shed 0.2 cent to $3.444 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Heating oil dropped 0.2 cent to $3.074 a gallon.