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Benchmark crude around $89 a barrel ahead of Obama speech to Congress on jobs and the economy
NEW YORK (AP) ' Oil stayed around $89 a barrel Thursday ahead of President Barack Obama's speech on jobs and the economy.
Investors hope to get a clearer picture of where the economy is headed when Obama speaks about jobs creation before a joint session of Congress Thursday night.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said earlier in the day that the Fed will consider various ways to stimulate the economy when it meets later this month, but he gave no specifics.
Obama's speech is expected to include a $300 billion plan to create jobs. He'll likely propose a series of initiatives, including extensions of the payroll tax cut and long-term unemployment benefits, tax incentives for companies to expand their workforce and money for public works projects.
High U.S. unemployment and the debt crisis in Europe have kept oil between $80 and $90 per barrel for more than a month, as investors worried about diminished demand for oil and gas in the sluggish economy.
Benchmark crude fell 29 cents on Thursday to finish at $89.05 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price many international varieties of oil, fell $1.25 to end at $114.55 in London.
Oil rose this week, mostly on expectations that the hurricane season will continue to slow down oil production and refining, after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee hampered operations on the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico. Now Tropical Storm Maria in the Atlantic is moving toward Florida, while Tropical Storm Nate churns in the Gulf, near Mexico.
The government reported Thursday that U.S. oil supplies dropped by 4 million barrels last week, which was more than analysts expected. Imports were down by more than a million barrels per day, as Hurricane Irene interfered with shipping on the East Coast.
The Energy Information Administration said in a separate report that natural gas supplies grew more than expected last week.
Meanwhile, gasoline pump prices held steady at a national average of $3.655 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular is nearly 98 cents higher than a year ago.
In other energy trading, heating oil fell 3.13 cents to end at $3.0443 per gallon and gasoline futures gave up 2.28 cents to finish at $2.8852 per gallon. Natural gas increased 4 cents to end the day at $3.980 per 1,000 cubic feet.