Crude futures remained flat Thursday, pulling back from a 25-month high as data showed record oil demand in China.
Light, sweet crude settled unchanged at $87.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The futures price peaked at $88.63, the highest intraday price since Oct. 9, 2008, and bottomed out at $87.54.
Industrial production in China grew by 13.1 percent in Oct. compared to the same period in 2009, increasing oil usage to 8.92 million barrels per day (bpd). According to the National Statistical Bureau, China's refineries hit record throughput at 8.27 million bpd. The 12.2-percent increase from Oct. 2009 to Oct. 2010 is a key bellwether of crude demand growth.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) also provided support for oil prices by raising its oil consumption forecast for 2010 and 2011. It increased its expectations from global oil demand to 1.17 million bpd from 120,000 for 2011.
Analysts said trading volume was light Thursday due to Veteran's Day, a holiday for many in the U.S.
Henry Hub natural gas, meanwhile, fell 12 cents to $3.93 per thousand cubic feet.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) Thursday reported an increase of 20 million cubic feet of natural gas in U.S. stockpiles for the week ended Nov. 5. Total gas in storage has reached a record of 3.84 trillion cubic feet, 31 barrel cubic feet higher than the previous year.
Analysts claim that due to milder weather, the demand for heating is not as high. Natural gas fluctuated between $3.92 and $4.13 Thursday.
Meanwhile, gasoline futures for December delivery slipped by less than a penny Thursday to settle at $2.24 a gallon. Gasoline peaked at $2.25 and bottomed out at $2.23.
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