Oil traders are playing the market cautiously in anticipation of the March 1 deadline -- Friday -- for a spending bill in Washington. Without the new bill, $85 billion in automatic spending cuts will become law as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
"With Italy slowly moving into the background and [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke done with his quantitative easing cheerleading before Congress, the market is quickly turning to the U.S. sequester deadline tomorrow," industry analyst Dominick Chirichella wrote.
An Italian bond auction Wednesday found strong demand, which helped quell fears of a new round of worries over Europe's debt crisis.
Also with an immediate impact on pricing, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 1.1 million barrels in the latest week to 377.5 million barrels.
On Thursday, West Texas Intermediate crude oil lost 93 cents to $91.85 per barrel. Gasoline prices dropped 2.3 cents to $3.105 per gallon.
Heating oil shed 4 cents to reach $2.9515 per gallon. Natural gas added 4.9 cents to hit $3.486 per million British thermal units.
At the pump, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline slipped from Wednesday's $3.786 per gallon to $3.782, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said.
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