The price of oil rose for the fourth day in a row Thursday, to above $97 per barrel, as an ongoing cold spell in parts of the U.S. boosted demand for heating oil.
U.S. crude for March delivery rose 59 cents to close at $97.32 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 69 cents to close at $107.58 in London.
Natural gas futures rose again, adding 4 cents to close at $4.73 per 1,000 cubic feet, as temperatures in many parts of the U.S. Northeast remained in the single digits and forecasts called for continued cold over the next week, boosting anticipated heating demand. Natural gas futures are up 18 percent over the past two weeks, to their highest level since July of 2011.
The deep chill blanketing much of the central and eastern U.S. is also reducing stocks of heating oil as homeowners crank up the thermostat and electric utilities burn it to avoid paying for natural gas. Natural gas has skyrocketed to record prices of more than $100 per 1,000 cubic feet on the spot market in some regions.