The price of US oil was steady near $96 a barrel today as investors awaited the release this week of key US economic indicators.

Benchmark oil for March delivery was down four cents to $95.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract fell seven cents to close at $95.88 on the Nymex on Friday after a report showed a cooling off in new US home sales.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, was down 31 cents to $112.97 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Analysts said there was scope for price gains if the data confirm a steady recovery in the US economy, the world's largest. The US government will release monthly durable goods figures later today, and the National Association of Realtors will report on pending home sales for December.

Later in the week, reports on weekly jobless claims, employment data and fourth quarter growth are due.