BANGKOK -- The price of oil was little changed Wednesday, underpinned by gradual improvement in the U.S and European economies.
Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 5 cents to $96.69 a barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 47 cents to finish at $96.64 a barrel on Tuesday after a big fall the day before.
Data Tuesday that showed rising activity in the manufacturing and services sectors in the 17 euro countries supported oil prices. A U.S. report also showed the services sector continues to expand.
Sentiment was further helped by a robust gain in Japan's stock market driven by the yen's continued slide on expectations of more aggressive monetary easing.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
-- Wholesale gasoline rose 0.4 cent to $3.041 a gallon.
-- Natural gas added 0.2 cent to $3.401 per 1,000 cubic feet.
-- Heating oil was up 0.5 cent at $3.196 a gallon.