Oil ends slightly higher ahead of earnings, Fed

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By The Associated Press, Associated Press

The price of oil was a little higher Monday, as traders awaited the start of the quarterly corporate earnings season and the latest word from the Federal Reserve on the economy.

Benchmark oil for May delivery rose 66 cents to finish at $93.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Alcoa kicks off the first-quarter earnings season after the stock market closes Monday. Analysts expected the aluminum giant to report slightly lower earnings compared to a year ago. Overall, Wall Street is looking for improved earnings from many companies as the economy shows signs of strengthening.

The minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting will be released Wednesday afternoon. That may give investors more insight into the central bank's view of the economy and prospects for the Fed's bond-buying stimulus program to continue at its current pace.

At the gas pump, drivers continued to get some relief. The national average for a gallon of regular was $3.59, down 4 cents from a week ago and about 34 cents lower than a year ago.

Brent crude, which sets the price of oil used by many U.S. refineries to make gasoline, rose 54 cents to end at $104.66 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Heating oil rose 4 cents to finish at $2.95 per gallon.

— Wholesale gasoline rose 5 cents to end at $2.91 per gallon.

— Natural gas fell 4 cents to end at $4.08 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.

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