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Oil declined after a top Energy Department official said the U.S. may release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Futures erased a gain as Charles McConnell, the acting assistant secretary for fossil energy, said a release is “being considered” at a hearing in Washington. Prices rose earlier on reports showing U.S. economic strength and signals that the Federal Reserve will maintain stimulative monetary policies.
Prices rose earlier as the decline in home prices eased. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities fell 3.8 percent from a year earlier, matching the median forecast of 32 economists, after decreasing 4.1 percent in December.
The Conference Board’s confidence index dropped to 70.2 from a revised 71.6 reading in February that was higher than initially reported, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The median forecast of economists called for a decrease to 70.
Oil also rose on speculation the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates low. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke cited “high” levels of long-term unemployment and wages and hours worked that are below pre-crisis peaks in a speech yesterday in Arlington, Virginia.
Crude oil for May delivery reached $107.73 before falling to $106.52 after McConnell spoke on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures have gained 8.2 percent this year after increasing 25 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Brent oil for May settlement fell 29 cents to $125.36 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
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