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Oil finishes virtually unchanged from Friday

NEW YORK -- A late-day surge left oil prices virtually unchanged Monday, erasing losses of more than two percent.

Earlier in the day, the focus was on weaker oil demand. Traders seemed to warm slowly to some positive U.S. economic news as the day went along. Higher U.S. stock prices may have also influenced the buying of oil.

The Commerce Department said Monday that retail sales rose 1.1 percent last month. That follows a 1.2 percent increase in August. They were the largest gains in two years, driven by auto sales and the release of the iPhone5.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average each rose about 0.7 percent.

Benchmark crude finished down a penny at $91.85 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, gained 79 cents to $114.40.

Prices at the pump fell more than 2 cents over the weekend to $3.787 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. A month ago, gas averaged $3.867.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at OPIS, said some markets around the U.S. are seeing the lowest wholesale or spot prices for gasoline since mid-July. If that trend holds, Kloza said, it could spell relief from stubbornly high gas prices for some Rust Belt cities as well as a few places in the South.

Wholesale gasoline futures traded in New York gave up 4.25 cents to $2.85 a gallon.

Other futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

_ Natural gas fell 12.5 cents to $3.486 per 1,000 cubic feet.

_ Heating oil fell 1.5 cents to $3.209 a gallon.