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Benchmark oil price volatile after Bernanke disappoints with no clues about further stimulus
NEW YORK (AP) ¯¯¯ The price of oil moved between small losses and gains on Tuesday after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave a congressional hearing no clues about whether the central bank will take more steps to stimulate the economy.
Investors had hoped that Bernanke would discuss a new plan Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee. He didn't, leaving traders to focus on meager jobs growth, weak retail sales and a slowdown in manufacturing. A sluggish economy points to less demand for oil.
Benchmark U.S. crude rose 5 cents in midday trading to $88.48 per barrel in New York. The contract had jumped as high as $89.28 earlier in the day.
Independent analyst Stephen Schork said a lot of traders buy oil ahead of Bernanke speeches just in case he announces a new stimulus plan. In the past, oil prices have jumped after new measures were announced, so those who anticipate the rise stand to profit by buying oil ahead of time.
"All it takes is one" announcement, Schork said, "and you're a winner."
At the pump, gasoline prices rose by a penny to a national average of $3.406 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular has fallen by an average of 53 cents since peaking this year in April.
On this day in 2008, gasoline prices hit an all-time average high of $4.1144 per gallon. Some experts had predicted earlier this year that the national average would beat that this summer, but that's now unlikely. Tom Kloza, OPIS chief oil analyst, expects gasoline prices to range between $3.30 and $3.50 per gallon from now until Labor Day.
In other futures trading, heating oil added nearly a penny to $2.8364 per gallon, while wholesale gasoline fell by a penny to $2.8486 per gallon. Natural gas rose by 2 cents to $2.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Brent crude, which is used to set the price of oil imported into the U.S., rose by 15 cents to $103.52 per barrel in London.
Follow Chris Kahn on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ChrisKahnAP