LONDON, (AP) – Oil prices fell slightly Friday, staying above $60 a barrel on the year’s last trading day.
Light sweet crude for February delivery was down 9 cents to $60.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Europe. February Brent at London’s ICE Futures exchange slipped 11 cents to $60.56 a barrel.
Prices have fallen this week as a mild U.S. winter has depressed demand for home-heating fuels. On Wednesday, crude prices closed at their lowest level in a month.
But they rallied slightly Thursday, rising in response to U.S. government data showing crude inventories plunged last week.
In its latest weekly report, the Department of Energy said crude-oil inventories declined 8.1 million barrels last week to 321 million barrels, dipping below year-ago levels of 323.3 million barrels.
The shrinking supply was not a total surprise. Foul weather along the Gulf Coast delayed oil shipments, forcing refiners to draw down inventories; and U.S. imports have fallen by 567,000 barrels a day in the past four weeks, in part because higher prices in Europe have attracted supplies.
But the magnitude of last week’s inventory drop was larger than expected, analysts said.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil was down 1.5 cents at 1.6080 a gallon, and natural gas futures fell 1.2 cents to $6.236 per 1,000 cubic feet.