NEW YORK — The price of oil rose to $96 a barrel on Friday on hopes that a steady recovery in the U.S. economy could boost fuel use.
Benchmark oil for June delivery rose 86 cents to close at $96.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. But even with three straight days of gains, oil finished the week down 2 cents.
A gauge of future economic activity in the U.S. rose more than analysts expected, as did a measure of consumer confidence, adding to evidence that the economy is steadily recovering. Traders hope that's a sign of increased demand for fuels like gasoline.
At the pump, gas prices rose 2 cents to an average of $3.62 a gallon. But that average is skewed by ballooning gas prices in the Midwest. Refinery outages in the region have created fuel shortages. The average price in Minnesota and North Dakota jumped 15 cents overnight.
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was up 86 cents to finish at $104.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
_ Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to end at $2.91 a gallon.
_ Heating oil added 3 cents to finish at $2.94 a gallon.
_ Natural gas gained 12 cents to end at $4.06 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.