Oil falls to US$95.88 as slowing new home sales offset boost from stock markets

The price of oil fell slightly Friday as a report showing a cooling off in new home sales in the United States offset the positive influence of stronger U.S. stock markets.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude fell seven cents to close at US$95.88 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It ended the week with a gain of 32 cents.

The U.S. Commerce Department said sales of new homes fell 7.3 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000. That’s down from November’s rate, which was the fastest in 2 1/2 years. Still, sales for the entire year were the best since 2009.

Oil prices are being supported by investors’ confident mood, reflected by rising indexes in global stock markets and gains by the euro against the dollar.

A weaker dollar makes crude cheaper — and a more attractive investment — for traders using other currencies. On Friday, the euro was up at $1.3458 from $1.3378 late Thursday in New York.

A batch of mostly positive earnings reports from Corporate America buoyed U.S. stock markets. The S&P 500 broke through 1,500 Thursday for the first time since December 2007 and lingered above that milestone on Friday. European stocks posted strong gains as well.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, ended flat at US$113.28 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline rose one cent to finish at US$2.88 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil fell three cents to finish at US$3.06 a gallon and natural gas ended unchanged at $3.44 per 1,000 cubic feet.