In this Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, photo, an oil pump works at sunset in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain. Oil prices are lower as traders remain unsure whether positive U.S. economic news signals an increase in demand for fuel. The lower oil prices Tuesday matched a slight decline in U.S. stocks markets. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)
BANGKOK — The price of oil rose modestly today as traders returned to commodities after big sell-offs last week.
Benchmark crude for May rose 2 cents to $88.03 at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contact rose 28 cents to finish at $88.01 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.
Analysts said relatively low prices rekindled interest among buyers. Traders cautiously returned to buying certain key commodities Friday, including gold and oil, after big sell-offs.
They also said prices are being supported by the possibility that oil-producing countries could reduce output in order to boost prices. Crude has lost about $9 a barrel since the beginning of the month amid concerns of sluggish growth in China and the U.S., while oil remained well supplied.
Traders were awaiting the release later today of existing home sales for March in the U.S., data that will help clarify which direction the U.S. economy is headed. The release of corporate earnings from companies like heavy equipment maker Caterpillar and toy maker Hasbro will shed light on the private sector.
Brent crude, which is used to price oil used by many U.S. refiners, fell 5 cents to $99.60 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
— Gasoline rose 0.3 cents to $2.7644 per gallon.
— Heating oil added 1.2 cent to $2.7769 a gallon.
— Natural gas fell 9 cents to $4.32 per 1,000 cubic feet.