Crude oil steady after slipping below $103, supported by demand due to US arctic weather

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By The Associated Press

The price of oil was little changed Friday, underpinned by demand stemming from arctic weather in the U.S.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 14 cents at $102.61 a barrel at 0825 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 9 cents to close at $102.75 on Thursday.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 3 cents at $110.27 a barrel.

"Market players are now looking at weather conditions in the U.S., it's quite cold and heating oil demand is getting tighter so that is supporting the crude oil prices," said Tetsu Emori, commodity markets fund manager at ASTMAZ Futures Co. in Tokyo.

He said the inventory of natural gas in the U.S. has also fallen, pushing up the price of the commodity.

On Thursday, oil prices fell after a monthly survey by HSBC found that China's manufacturing, a driver of the global economy, contracted for a second straight month.

But uncertainty about protests in Venezuela, a major U.S. oil supplier, as well as export disruptions in Libya and South Sudan kept a floor under oil prices.

Prices were also steadied by a weekly report from the U.S. Energy Department released Thursday that revealed that oil stockpiles grew about half as fast as expected, according to analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.3 cent to $3.018 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 17.7 cents to $6.241 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil shed 0.4 cent to $3.08 a gallon.

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