Crude oil declined Thursday on a combination of renewed economic concerns, easing fears about a supply disruption, and a rise in U.S. fuel stockpiles.
Oil for February delivery fell 46 cents to settle at $91.40 after trading within a range from $90.91 to $92.37. The U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report on jobless claims diminished recent positive sentiment about a rebounding economy. According to the Labor Department, seasonally adjusted first-time claims for unemployment insurance increased 8.5 percent last week to 445,000.
Also easing pressure on oil futures were diminished fears that the recent shutdown — and temporary re-start — of the Trans Alaska Pipeline will create supply problems for West Coast refiners. The pipeline is running at reduced capacity to prevent ice from forming and wax from building up inside, but it will be shut down on a temporary basis again this weekend to facilitate ongoing repairs.
The U.S. Department of Energy's report Wednesday that the country's gasoline stocks increased by 2.3 percent last week to 223.2 million barrels mitigated fuel supply concerns. In fact, the price of a gallon of gasoline slipped by a penny Thursday to end the day at $2.45.
February gasoline peaked at $2.47 and bottomed out at $2.43.
Front-month natural gas lost 12 cents to settle at $4.41 per thousand cubic feet. The futures price fluctuated from $4.38 to $4.50.
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