The price of oil fell slightly but remained above $102 on Friday, underpinned by demand stemming from the severe winter weather in the U.S.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 26 cents at $102.49 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract fell 9 cents to close at $102.75.
"Market players are now looking at weather conditions in the U.S., it's quite cold and heating oil demand is getting tighter so that is supporting the crude oil prices," said Tetsu Emori, commodity markets fund manager at ASTMAZ Futures Co. in Tokyo.
Analysts said the recent rising trend in oil prices, which are on pace to have gained for the sixth consecutive week, was being interrupted in part by Thursday's supplies report from the U.S. Energy Department.
"Crude stocks in the U.S. were up week-on-week, while the draw in distillate inventories was lower than expected," said a report from JBC Energy in Vienna. "Together with the weak Chinese data from Wednesday, this took a part of the enthusiasm out of the recent rally."
The day before, market sentiment had been knocked by a report showing a drop in Chinese manufacturing activity.
In other markets, Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 3 cents at $110.27 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In energy futures trading in New York:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.24 cents to $3.0086 a gallon.
— Natural gas added 16 cents to $6.224 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil shed 1.28 cents to $3.0706 a gallon.