The price of crude oil slipped closer to $95 a barrel on Monday, with energy investors keeping to the sidelines as U. S. markets were closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Benchmark oil for February delivery fell 9 cents to settle at $95.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 7 cents to finish at $95.56 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

"Due to the lack of major economic indicators, investors will be looking for some direction to the global equity markets and the U. S. dollar movements," said a report from Sucden Financial Research in London.

A stronger dollar tends to put pressure on oil prices by making crude more expensive for traders using other currencies. On Monday, the euro was down against the dollar, to $1.3314 from $1.3375 on Friday.

A rise in stock markets did help limit losses in commodity markets, but sentiment remained fragile.

Concerns linger about the U. S. economy, with lawmakers wrangling over spending cuts and the nation's debt ceiling, which limits the amount of debt that U. S. government can take on. Though Republican lawmakers were expected to accept a temporary increase, a final deal is still not in sight.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 9 cents to $111.80 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Natural gas added 6 cents to $3.63 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Wholesale gasoline rose a fraction of a cent to $2.798 per gallon.

— Heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.072 a gallon.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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