Oil falls after topping $109

NEW YORK (AP) — The price of oil fell back Friday after crossing $109 a barrel for the first time since early last year.

By midday in New York, benchmark crude for August delivery was down 3 cents at $108.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Signs of an improving U.S. economy have helped push the price of oil to the highest level in 16 months. On Friday, oil rose to $109.32, the highest price since March 1, 2012, before pulling back.

Oil has jumped about $11 a barrel in July, and pushed up the price of gasoline along with it. Gasoline futures have gained 13 percent since July 1.

Oil prices have gained support from improved hiring and manufacturing activity in the U.S. A sharp drop in the nation’s crude oil supply, signaling an increase in demand, has also boosted energy prices.

The recent gains by West Texas Intermediate, or WTI, the benchmark oil grade traded on the Nymex, have erased the spread to the Brent contract traded in London from over $13 in April. Brent crude, the benchmark for many international types of oil, was down 67 cents to $108.03 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

“Better-than-expected US economic data are providing the WTI price with upward momentum and so is the sharp reduction of U.S. crude oil stocks in past weeks,” said a report from analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 2 cents to $3.13 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 1 cent to $3.09 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 3 cents to $3.78 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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