Oil down slightly, natural gas continues to drop


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NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices are falling Tuesday as traders take their cue from U.S. stock markets, and investors await the start of the earnings season.

Meanwhile, natural gas prices are dropping again following a report showing production is at record levels.

Benchmark oil fell 29 cents to $92.90 a barrel in New York. The price edged close to $94 a barrel earlier as European stocks gained, but then dropped when U.S. markets opened lower. Alcoa posts fourth-quarter results after the markets close, the first of the major companies to announce earnings. Investors are concerned that many will have weak showings in the coming weeks, reflecting the economy's sluggish recovery.

Natural gas fell 5 cents to $3.23 per 1,000 cubic feet, continuing a decline that started around midday Monday when the Energy Department reported that natural gas production rose to a record 73.54 trillion cubic feet a day in October. In addition some analysts lowered their estimates for natural gas prices because of the mild weather that much of the country experienced in November and December.

Oil traders will be monitoring fresh information this week on U.S. supplies of crude and refined products.

Data for the week ending Jan. 4 is expected to show a rise of 1.5 million barrels for crude oil and an increase of 2.6 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out on Wednesday.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 14 cents to $111.50 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 1 cent to $2.79 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 3 cents to $3.06 a gallon.

 

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