Oil price slips to near US$95 a barrel; trading muted due to US public holiday

The price of crude oil slipped closer to US$95 a barrel on Monday, with energy investors keeping to the sidelines as U.S. markets were closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery fell nine cents to settle at US$95.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract had risen seven cents to finish at US$95.56 on the Nymex on Friday.

“Due to the lack of major economic indicators, investors will be looking for some direction to the global equity markets and the U.S. dollar movements,” said a report from Sucden Financial Research in London.

A stronger dollar tends to put pressure on oil prices by making crude more expensive for traders using other currencies. On Monday, the euro was down against the dollar, to $1.3314 from $1.3375 on Friday.

A rise in stock markets did help limit losses in commodity markets, but sentiment remained fragile.

Concerns linger about the U.S. economy, with lawmakers wrangling over spending cuts and the U.S. debt ceiling, which limits the amount of debt that U.S. government can take on. Though Republican lawmakers were expected to accept a temporary increase, a final deal is still not in sight.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell nine cents to US$111.84 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, natural gas added six cents to US$3.63 per 1,000 cubic feet, wholesale gasoline rose a fraction of a cent to US$2.798 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres) and heating oil rose two cents to US$3.072 a gallon.