The price of oil rose for a fourth straight day Tuesday as traders awaited the latest reports on U.S. oil supplies and retail sales.
Benchmark oil for April delivery gained 48 cents to finish at $92.54 per barrel in New York. .
Oil has now risen nearly 3 percent in the last four trading sessions. Whether it maintains that momentum could depend on this week's reports on U.S. oil supplies.
Many traders believe the large supply of oil in the U.S. has kept a lid on prices. Last week the Energy Department said that the nation's supply of crude is 10.3 percent above year-ago levels. And U.S. oil production, at more than 7 million barrels a day, is at the highest level since the late 1990s.
The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration – the market benchmark – will be out on Wednesday.
Data for the week ending March 8 is expected to show a build of 2.3 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 1.5 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Also on Wednesday, the government releases its latest monthly tally for retail sales. Analysts estimate that retail sales rose 0.3 percent in February, excluding gasoline and car sales.
U.S. gas pump prices have leveled off at $3.70 a gallon, according to AAA, Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. That's down 8 cents since the start of March and 10 cents cheaper than a year ago. The government said Tuesday that it expects gas to average close to $3.67 a gallon over the next few months.
Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, slipped 46 cents to end at $109.23 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
_ Wholesale gasoline finished unchanged at $3.15 a gallon.
_ Heating oil fell 2 cents to end at $2.95 a gallon.
_ Natural gas was unchanged at $3.65 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Pablo Gorondi contributed to this report.