NEW YORK — The price of oil fell near $97 a barrel Thursday as unemployment claims rose more than expected.
Benchmark oil for March delivery fell 72 cents to $97.22 a barrel in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Oil is still up more than $5 for the month of January, making it the biggest monthly increase since August.
The government said the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week, although it remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring. A separate report showed that consumer spending slowed in December when compared with November.
Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 33 cents to $114.77 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline lost 4 cents to $3 per gallon.
— Natural gas fell 8 cents to $3.26 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil was down 1 cent at $3.10 a gallon.