Oil prices slipped below $97 per barrel Friday at the end of a volatile week that mixed jitters about Europe's debt with the prospect of tighter oil supplies and improving economic conditions in the U.S.
By early afternoon, benchmark crude fell $2 to $96.93 per barrel in New York in light trading ahead of the Thanksgiving (Nov. 24) holiday week. Brent crude rose 3 cents to $108.12 per barrel in London.
The benchmark price started the week at about $98 a barrel. It topped $100 for the first time since July on Wednesday after Canadian pipeline companies announced plans to bring oil from a key delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast. That pushed up prices because it will reduce a glut of crude in the Midwest.
Then prices plunged nearly 4 percent, to just under $99, on Thursday as investors worried about higher borrowing rates in Europe and slowing economies that would reduce demand for oil.
Analysts say the dust is still settling from the rapid ups and downs in oil prices.
"The market is just wobbly right now," independent analyst and trader Stephen Schork said.
On Friday the headlines about the world economy were mostly positive. Greek leaders predicted that the country's massive budget deficit will fall sharply next year, with the help of bailouts and other debt relief. In the U.S., a gauge of economic activity showed solid growth in October, and a stronger economy means rising demand for oil.
In other energy trading, heating oil fell 3 cents to $3.0524 per gallon, while gasoline futures fell 4 cents to $2.4680 per gallon. Natural gas dropped 9.5 cents to $3.315 per 1,000 cubic feet.