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Article updated: 2/6/2013 7:24 AM

Oil steady in Asia after clawing back losses

By

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.

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