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Oil steady below $97 amid high supplies, Fed

LONDON (AP) — Oil remained below $97 a barrel Thursday, with gains limited by concerns over plentiful supplies and the prospect of less U.S. monetary stimulus.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was up 10 cents at $96.87 a barrel at midday European time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.43 on Wednesday.

The oil price has been capped since an Energy Department report this week showed an increase of 4.1 million barrels in crude oil stocks last week. Over five weeks, supplies have risen by more than 25 million barrels, suggested muted demand.

The outcome of a two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve's policy committee added to the pressure on oil prices. The Fed kept its mammoth monetary stimulus in place. But the central bank's positive tone on the economy indicated that it might be prepared to slow its bond purchases by early next year, sooner than some have assumed.

The withdrawal of stimulus would result in higher interest rates and a stronger U.S. dollar, making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international crude also used by U.S. refineries, was down 24 cents to $109.62 on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.2 cents to $2.609 a gallon.

— Heating oil shed 0.4 cents to $2.9750 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 1.8 cents to $3.638 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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