NEW YORK (AP) — A government report showing a smaller-than-expected increase in U.S. crude supplies led to a turnaround in the price of oil Wednesday.
Meanwhile, U.S. drivers continue to pay more at the pump. The average price for a gallon of gas in California is now within a nickel of $4.
Benchmark crude for March delivery fell 2 cents to end at $96.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It dropped as low as $95.04 in the morning.
Crude supplies grew by 2.6 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, in the week ended Feb. 1. Analysts expected an increase of 3 million barrels. Still, total supplies stand at 371.7 million barrels, which is 9.6 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Traders may have been encouraged by a decline of 315,000 barrels in Cushing, Okla., site of the biggest U.S. storage hub. The EIA also said gasoline demand rose nearly 5 percent during the past four weeks.
Gasoline is getting more expensive by the day. The nationwide average price for a gallon of gas rose for the 20th straight day to $3.55, a level not seen since late October. It's jumped 18 cents in just eight days. Gas now costs 7 cents more than it did a year ago.
Californians are feeling the biggest pinch. The average price has gone from $3.61 a gallon to $3.96 in just a month. In New York, the average price has jumped 14 cents in the past week to $3.90 a gallon.