Oil stabilizes near $91, day after prices drop on bulging supplies

BANGKOK – The price of oil stabilized near US$91 per barrel Thursday after a big fall as traders digested an increase in U.S. crude inventories that suggested weak demand for fuel.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 17 cents to $91.20 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $2.43 to finish at $91.03 a barrel on Wednesday after a sharp increase in American crude stockpiles and data from the U.S. and China that showed factory production in both countries grew at a slower pace in April.

The American Petroleum Institute said oil inventories increased by nearly 5.2 million barrels to 388.4 million barrels for the week ending April 26. That was more or less in line with the U.S. Energy Department, which on Wednesday reported that crude inventories expanded by 6.7 million barrels last week, nearly five times the increase analysts expected, to 395.3 million barrels.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil production, at 7.3 million barrels per day, is the highest it’s been in 20 years.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices of oil from the North Sea used by many U.S. refiners, rose 3 cents to $99.98 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.2 cent to $2.721 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.2 cent to $2.787 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 0.9 cent to $4.335 per 1,000 cubic feet.