Oil steady ahead of key US economic data

Wednesday 30 January 2013 18.29
Oil prices steady after recent rally
Oil prices steady after recent rally

Oil prices were nearly flat today as a recent rally cooled off ahead of the release of more US economic indicators and the conclusion of a meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was down 1 cent to $97.56 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose $1.13, or 1.2%, to close at $97.57 last night after being pushed higher by a report about rising US home prices.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 1 cents to $114.37 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Energy prices can rise when investors feel good about the economy, since it is needed to power manufacturing and other economic activity.

But traders became slightly more cautious ahead of the release of other US economic indicators, including economic growth later today and weekly jobless claims tomorrow.

In addition, the Federal Reserve will conclude a two-day meeting tonight with the release of a statement that investors will study for clues about the outlook for the economy and interest rates.

Recent rises in oil prices have been the result of an improving global economy, and positive manufacturing reports from the US and China. But significant gains could be capped by demand constraints and ample supply, analysts said.