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Oil prices steady as investors praise Greece austerity plan; natural gas jumps 4 pct. percent
NEW YORK (AP) ' Oil prices were flat Tuesday as Greece and its creditors continued to work on plans to trim massive debts. Natural gas prices jumped as bargain hunters snapped up contracts that are still the cheapest in 10 years.
Benchmark crude fell 7 cents to $100.84 per barrel in New York. Brent crude rose by 17 cents to $117.56 per barrel in London.
Greece approved another round of spending cuts and other austerity measures over the weekend, and it was rewarded Tuesday with slightly lower borrowing costs. Greece's economy remains a shambles, but analysts say the reforms should shield eurozone banks and keep the region's economy from sinking further.
In the U.S. natural gas futures surged by 11 cents, or 4.3 percent, to $2.54 per 1,000 cubic feet. Analysts say that investors are betting that prices have dropped about as far as they'll go, and they'll eventually rebound. So they're buying.
The U.S. remains flush with natural gas, however, and that's expected to continue, if producers like Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. don't take more natural gas rigs offline, analysts said.
"We'd need another ice age before we're going to see these inventories drop," independent oil analyst Stephen Schork said.
Retail gasoline prices were flat at a national average of $3.51 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular is 13 cents higher than it was a month ago and 39 cents above a year ago.
In other energy trading, heating oil rose by 2 cents to $3.18 per gallon and gasoline futures fell by 3 cents to $2.99 per gallon.
Follow Chris Kahn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ChrisKahnAP