Oil stays above $88 per barrel


The price of oil rose modestly above $88 a barrel Monday as traders returned to commodities after big sell-offs last week.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for May was up 48 cents to $88.49 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the Nymex contact rose 28 cents to finish at $88.01 a barrel.

Analysts said relatively low prices rekindled interest among buyers. Traders cautiously returned to buying certain key commodities Friday, including gold and oil, after big sell-offs.

They also said prices are being supported by the possibility that oil-producing countries could reduce output in order to boost prices. Crude has lost about $9 a barrel since the beginning of the month amid concerns of sluggish growth in China and the U.S., while oil remained well supplied.

Traders were awaiting the release later Monday of existing home sales for March in the U.S., data that will help clarify which direction the U.S. economy is headed. The release of corporate earnings from companies like heavy equipment maker Caterpillar and toy maker Hasbro will shed light on the private sector.

Prices were also supported by shipping data which analysts say point to OPEC slowly cutting output.

Figures cited by Frankfurt's Commerzbank from consultant firm Oil Movements show that OPEC oil deliveries are due to fall by 220,000 barrels a day in the four weeks to May 4 compared with the previous four weeks.

If true, oil shipments would be at their lowest level in two months, Commerzbank said.

Near the end of 2012, Saudi Arabia made an unannounced cut to its oil shipments of around 1 million barrels a day, citing slack demand.

The June contract for Brent crude, which is used to price oil used by many U.S. refiners, was up 77 cents to $100.42 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Gasoline rose 2.34 cents to $2.7848 per gallon.

— Heating oil added 2.61 cents to $2.8018 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 7.3 cents to $4.335 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this season.