NEW YORK, (AP) — The price of oil headed higher for a fourth straight day Friday on fresh signs U.S. consumers are gaining some confidence in the economy.
Benchmark oil rose 34 cents to $95.94 per barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It has gained three percent this week on positive economic data and a drop in U.S. oil supplies. It’s up 23 percent since late June.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary August index of consumer sentiment released Friday showed its highest level since May. Most economists had been expecting a decline.
Word that the Obama administration is considering a release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stem the rising cost of crude appeared to have more impact on Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil. Brent fell $1.28 to $113.99 a barrel in London. Before Friday, Brent had climbed more than $13 per barrel this month on concerns about production outages in the North Sea. It’s also influenced more by developments in the Middle East.
A senior administration official, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, told The Associated Press Friday the U.S. is monitoring gas prices to see whether they fall before making a decision to tap strategic reserves.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday morning that the move is an option, but he didn’t elaborate.
Gas prices in the U.S. have risen an average of 39 cents a gallon (3.8 liters) since early July, because of an increase in oil prices and refinery and pipeline problems in some regions.
The U.S. released oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve last summer with only limited success. Oil prices dropped nearly 5 percent when the government announced the release of 30 million barrels from the SPR on July 23. Prices rebounded over the next eight days. Oil ended the year higher than it started.