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Oil settles near $80 a barrel again

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[February 27, 2010]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Oil prices hit $80 a barrel Friday to end a wild trading week that saw prices swing in the opposite direction every day.

CInsurancerude barrels have wavered between $70 and $80 all year, and the latest batch of economic reports failed to give a clear picture of when energy demand in the U.S. would pick up.

The Energy Information Administration said the country has started consuming more petroleum over the past few weeks. It also said the U.S. is still working off a hefty crude surplus built up during the recession.

And gasoline contracts slid this week as a refinery strike ended in France. The U.S., which imports much of its fuel from Europe, still has larger-than-average supplies of both motor gasoline and distillate fuels like diesel.

Crude hit $80 on Monday and Wednesday, only to fall on Tuesday and Thursday. On Friday, prices jumped again after the government reported that the economy grew at an annual rate of 5.9 percent in the final three months of 2009.

The GDP reading was the strongest in six years, though the economy isn't expected to maintain that level of growth this year.

Crude prices also got a boost Friday from a weaker U.S. dollar. Dollar-based commodities like oil become cheaper for international investors when the dollar falls.

Benchmark crude for April delivery added $1.49 to settle at $79.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices reached as high as $80.05 a barrel earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, pump prices increased for the ninth day. The average price for retail gasoline added less than a penny overnight to $2.701 a gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

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A gallon of regular unleaded is 0.6 cent more expensive than it was last month and 81.9 cents more expensive than a year ago.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil for March delivery added 3.87 cents to settle at $2.0249 a gallon, while gasoline for March delivery rose 4.18 cents to settle at $2.0788 a gallon. Natural gas for April delivery gained 4.6 cents to settle at $4.813 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose $1.30 to settle at $77.59 on the ICE futures exchange.


Associated Press writers Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary and Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.

[Associated Press; By CHRIS KAHN]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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