Oil Prices Edge Lower; Silver Futures Slump

NEW YORK (AP) -

Crude oil edged back below $100 a barrel Monday, while silver futures slid. Crop prices also fell.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell $1.03, or 1 percent, to settle at $99.29 a barrel in New York. Oil had closed above $100 Friday for the first time since Oct. 18 on prospects of a U.S. economic recovery.

Other energy futures were mostly lower, except for natural gas.

Wholesale gasoline lost 3 cents to $2.79 per gallon, heating oil fell 5 cents to $3.08 per gallon and natural gas jumped 6 cents to $4.43 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold for February delivery lost $10.20, or 0.8 percent, to $1,203.80 an ounce. Silver dropped 43.4 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $19.615 an ounce.

While signs of an improving economy in the U.S. have supported prices, analysts noted that oil consumption in other parts of the world could be held back by a strengthening dollar, which makes oil more expensive for other countries.

“The recovery of the U.S. economy is fueling expectations of higher oil demand in the U.S.,” said Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzerland. “But on a worldwide basis, the stronger U.S. dollar that comes with an improvement of the U.S. economy is a negative for oil demand growth.”

Others noted that interest from financial speculators would help push oil prices higher.

“Look for the price surge to continue into these final days of 2013, and the first days of 2014,” said the Kilduff Report, which is edited by Michael Fitzpatrick. “New money will be put to work in commodities, causing part of the rise.”

At the gas pump, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.31. That’s up 6 cents from a week ago, and up 2 cents from the same time last year.

In other metals trading, March copper fell 0.25 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $3.3825 a pound. March palladium fell $1.15, or 0.2 percent, to $710.80 an ounce and April platinum lost $11.70, or 0.8 percent, to $1,367.20 an ounce.

In March agricultural contracts, corn lost 4 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $4.235 a bushel, soybeans fell 5 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $13.0875 a bushel and wheat declined 8.5 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $6.005 a bushel.