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Oil hovers below US$96 a barrel ahead of the Chinese New Year

The price of oil rose slightly Tuesday ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday and amid forecasts for moderating temperatures in the U.S. Northeast.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up 13 cents at US$95.85 a barrel at 0530 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 92 cents to settle at US$95.72 on Monday. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was up 25 cents at US$106.94 a barrel.

Yusuke Seta, an energy analyst at Newedge brokerage in Tokyo, said he did not expect much movement in the oil market ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays which begin later this week.

Benchmark oil fell below US$96 on Monday amid forecasts for moderating temperatures in the U.S. Northeast and ahead of the next meeting of the U.S. central bank.

Along with oil, the prospects of a break in the deep chill that has enveloped the upper U.S. Midwest, the Northeast and parts of the South sank the price of natural gas.

The Federal Reserve meets for two days from Tuesday. Officials are widely expected to reduce the central bank's monthly bond buying that has underpinned an economic recovery.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline was up 0.6 cent at US$2.639 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 8.4 cents to US$4.931 per 1,000 cubic feet

— Heating oil price was up 0.3 cent at US$2.97 a gallon.

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