Oil price falls to near $98 a barrel

By CHRIS KAHN | November 18, 2011 | 11:30 AM EST

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices are lower, near $98 per barrel, as jitters about Europe's debt crisis are balanced by encouraging signs for the U.S. economy.

Benchmark crude on Friday fell 69 cents to $98.26 per barrel in New York in light trading ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday week. Brent crude rose 17 cents to $108.26 per barrel in London.

It's been a volatile week for oil. Benchmark crude topped $100 for the first time since July on Wednesday, then plunged nearly 4 percent on Thursday as investors worried about Europe.

On Friday a gauge of future economic activity in the U.S. pointed to solid growth for October. A stronger economy means rising demand for oil.

Gasoline prices dropped nearly a penny on Friday to a national average of $3.38 per gallon.