Commodity Corner: Oil Up Nearly 3%

November crude oil settled $2.28 higher Wednesday after the U.S. Energy Department announced the country's crude stockpile increased more modestly than expected last week. Also propelling oil to a settlement price of $81.77 a barrel were a weaker dollar and a somewhat positive economic outlook from the Federal Reserve Board.

The Energy Information Administration announced that U.S. crude oil stocks stood at 361.2 million barrels as of last Friday. The figure represents a 0.2% increase from the preceding week and a 6.5% gain from the corresponding period in 2009. In addition, the dollar lost 1.5% against the euro.

The Fed, which revealed its informal assessment of the economy via the latest installment of its "Beige Book," observed that economic activity increased modestly from September to October. The central bank noted that areas on the grow included manufacturing, energy, travel and tourism, and new and used vehicle sales. However, lackluster sectors of the economy included real estate and construction.

The front-month crude price fluctuated between $79.35 and $82.00.

Sensing a buying opportunity as well as cooler weather ahead, traders also gave natural gas futures a slight boost Wednesday. Gas for November delivery ended the day at $3.54 per thousand cubic feet, a three-cent improvement from the previous day. Natural gas peaked at $3.61 and bottomed out at $3.52.

November gasoline futures also rose by three cents, ending the day at $2.08 a gallon. Gasoline traded from $2.04 to $2.08 during the day's session.