Oil loses strong early gains, finishes little changed above US$93 a barrel

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Oil finished little changed Monday, after being up more than $1 earlier in the day. Benchmark crude fell two cents to US$93.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Uncertainty over the outcome of Italy’s general election contributed to a weaker euro and a stronger dollar. A stronger dollar tends to put pressure on oil prices by making crude more expensive for traders using other currencies.

In China, a survey released Monday showed manufacturing declined to a four-month low in February, a reminder of possible threats to recovery in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Traders were also keeping an eye on a new round of talks beginning Tuesday in Kazakhstan between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

Iran, nominally one of the world’s top oil producers, has had to make substantial output cuts because U.S.-led sanctions are greatly limiting its crude exports.

In London, Brent crude was up 34 cents to end at US$114.44 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline was unchanged at US$3.26 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil fell less than one cent to finish at US$3.10 a gallon and natural gas rose 12 cents to end at $3.41 per 1,000 cubic feet.