Oil prices end higher on hope of stimulus

Friday, September 07, 2012, Vol. 36, No. 36
PABLO GORONDI, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of oil finished slightly higher Monday after a push-pull between bad economic news and expectations that central banks will intervene to boost growth.

Data released Monday showed China's imports shrank unexpectedly in August. China's president warned of a further slowdown and at one point drove benchmark oil fell by $1 per barrel. But the hope of stimulus action by the Federal Reserve on Thursday served as a safety net

Benchmark crude ended up 12 cents to $96.54 in New York. The price remains in a virtual stall — oil has traded between $94 per barrel and $97 per barrel for nearly a month.

China's oil imports fell about 13 percent in August from a year ago, according to Barclays. Factory output is now at a three-year low. A second report showed China's auto sales growth tumbled to below 4 percent last month, from 11 percent in July and 15 percent in June.

It's troubling news from the world's second-largest economy, especially when growth in the world's No. 1 economy — the U.S. — has also slowed.

On Friday, the U.S. government reported the economy added a weaker-than-expected 96,000 jobs last month, increasing the likelihood of another round of stimulus from the Fed.

At least one analyst thinks the bad economic news will eventually weigh on oil. Raymond James' J. Marshall Adkins expects oil prices to "dramatically deteriorate" as a dull global economy and rising U.S. supplies lead to an oil glut.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, gained 56 cents to finish at $114.81 per barrel in London.

The average price at the pump held steady the past week after rising sharply because of Hurricane Isaac. The national average for gasoline is at $3.83 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That's still up about 14 cents from a month ago.

Other futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline rose less than a penny to $3.024 a gallon.

— Heating oil finished up 1.8 cents at $3.17 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 13 cents to end at $2.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.