A government report showing a smaller-than-expected increase in US crude supplies led to a turnaround in the price of oil Wednesday.
Benchmark crude for March delivery fell two cents to end at US$96.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at midday Thursday. It dropped as low as US$95.04 in the morning.
Crude supplies grew by 2.6 million barrels, or 0.7 per cent, in the week ended February 1. Analysts expected an increase of three million barrels. Still, total supplies stand at 371.7 million barrels, which is 9.6 per cent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Traders may have been encouraged by a decline of 315,000 barrels in Cushing, Oklahoma, site of the biggest US storage hub.
Oil sold off earlier Wednesday after data released by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group for the oil and gas industry, showed that US stockpiles of crude rose by 3.6 million barrels last week.
The API report is based on voluntary submissions from refineries, storage terminals and pipeline operators. Weekly updates to the government are mandatory.
In London, Brent crude rose 21 cents to finish at US$116.73 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
Wholesale gasolene rose a fraction of a cent to end at US$3.04 a gallon.
Natural gas added two cents to finish at US$3.42 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Heating oil lost less than a penny to end at US$3.19 a gallon.