US oil flat, Brent falls on Libya exports

The price of U.S. oil inched slightly higher Monday but global oil fell more than 1 percent on expectations of increased exports from Libya.

U.S. crude for June delivery rose 24 cents to close at $100.84 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.46, or 1.3 percent, to close at $108.12 in London.

Brent fell on news that Libya would soon resume exports from a 70,000 barrel-per-day terminal that had been occupied by rebels. Libya has struggled to deliver steady oil exports in the three years since the ouster of former leader Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s exports are roughly 220,000 barrels a day, down from 1.4 million barrels a day a year ago.

Energy analyst Jim Ritterbusch said in a research note Monday that U.S. and European sanctions against Russia over its involvement in the turmoil in Ukraine appeared to be less strict that oil traders had expected, further pushing oil prices down.

Still, analysts say prices remained higher than they would otherwise be because of fears that sanctions against Russia would disrupt supplies of that country’s oil and gas. Global supplies are ample, and demand growth is weak.

“Growth in demand is so far unable to match, let alone outpace, the increasing oil supply,” said Fawad Razaqzada, of Forex.com in London.

The average retail price of gasoline in the U.S. was unchanged at $3.70 per gallon. It was the first time in more than a month that the average price didn’t increase. Gasoline prices typically rise in the late winter and early spring. That’s because refiners shut down to perform maintenance during a period of low demand and switch to manufacturing higher-priced summer blends of gasoline designed to meet clean-air regulations.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to close at $2.986 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 3.6 cents to close at $2.945 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 14 cents to close at $4.79 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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