The price of oil approached $93 a barrel Thursday, rising slightly as expectations of greater use of heating oil during extreme cold weather in North America offset signs of weak demand for gasoline.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery was up 46 cents to $92.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
On Wednesday, the contract fell $1.34 to $92.33 after the U.S. Energy Department said supplies of gasoline rose by 6.2 million barrels last week, a jump of nearly 3 percent. Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill, said the data indicated that demand for gasoline was the lowest in a year.
Prices recovered a bit Thursday as the record-breaking cold affecting the northern U.S. boosted demand for heating oil. The latest employment data was also supportive, as the Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, signaling fewer layoffs and steady job growth.
Still, the Nymex contract is down over 5 percent so far this year.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was up 76 cents to $107.91 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Brent has been supported the erratic results of efforts to increase of Libya's oil production and exports, which have been hampered by conflicts between the government and regional militias in the country with Africa's largest proven oil reserves.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline was up 1.98 cents at $2.6761 a gallon.
— Natural gas fell 6.8 cents to $4.148 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil was up 1.05 cents to $2.9599 a gallon.
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