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Oil rises amid Fed commitment to low rates

BANGKOK (AP) — The price of rose modestly Wednesday in Asia as regional stock markets got a boost from the Federal Reserve's sanguine view about the risks of its low interest rate policy.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 28 cents to $92.91 a barrel at midafternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 48 cents closing to settle at $92.63 on Tuesday.

In the opening remarks of his semiannual report to Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled that the Fed's efforts to keep borrowing costs low will continue.

Bernanke expressed confidence that the central bank's low-rate policies currently pose little risk of causing runaway inflation or a stock market bubble, which doused worries the Fed might soon start scaling back its monetary stimulus.

A continuation of easy monetary policy in the U.S. would also keep downward pressure on the dollar and potentially boost oil since it is traded in dollars and might be more affordable for investors with other currencies.

Stock and commodities markets were rattled on Tuesday by the possibility of political paralysis in Italy after nearly complete results in crucial national elections showed no clear front-runner. Investors worried that the uncertainty could intensify Europe's debt crisis.

Investors will also be monitoring fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude oil. Data for the week ending Feb. 22 are expected to show a build of 2.6 million barrels in crude oil stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

In London, Brent crude was up 40 cents at $113.13 on the ICE futures exchange.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was up 0.6 cent at $3.205 a gallon.

— Heating oil dropped 1.2 cents to $3.039 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 0.1 cent to $3.457 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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