Oil recovers some losses

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New York - The price of oil regained some of its earlier losses on Wednesday after a report from the Federal Reserve showed the United States economy strengthened across much of the country.

Benchmark oil for April delivery fell 39 cents to finish at $90.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had dropped as low $89.55 after the government reported a big increase in the nation's stockpile of oil.

But crude clawed back some ground when the Fed's Beige Book report showed that auto sales, more hiring and the ongoing housing recovery helped the US economy grow in January and February

Earlier the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that US oil supplies grew last week by 3.8 million barrels, or 0.4 percent, more than three times the increase that analysts expected. The nation's supply of crude is 10.3 percent above year-ago levels. And at more than seven million barrels a day, US oil production is at the highest level since the late 1990s.

The death of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez had little immediate effect on the price of oil. The full impact of his death may not be felt until Venezuela, which sits on the world's second-largest oil reserves, picks a new leader - one who might choose a course different from Chavez. Elections are expected to be called within a month.

Chavez, who died on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer, oversaw a decline in oil production during his 14 years as the leader of Venezuela. In the short-term, traders will watch for any disruption to Venezuela's production. Longer term, they'll want to see if the new government invites foreign investment in Venezuela's oil industry and is able to boost output.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by US refineries, fell 55 cents to end at $111.06 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. - Sapa-AP

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