Crude oil holds above $97

Feb. 13, 2013 at 6:35 PM

NEW YORK, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices held at more than $97 per barrel Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange as traders evaluate contradictory estimates on future demand.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Energy Information Administration have raised their demand expectations for 2013, while the International Energy Agency in Paris predicted a drop of 90,000 barrels per day in global demand.

An upswing in equity markets since the first of the year has given commodity markets strength but the run-up has begun to wobble, if not stall.

The EIA said Wednesday U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 600,000 barrels in the week, significantly less than expected.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil for March delivery shed 30 cents to $97.21 per barrel.

Reformulated blendstock gasoline gained 0.5 cents to $3.05 per gallon. Heating oil lost 1.12 cents to $3.225 per gallon.

Natural gas added 3.8 cents to $3.291 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline, up for eight consecutive weeks, rose to $3.618 per gallon from Tuesday's $3.604 per gallon, AAA said.

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