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THE PRICE OF OIL INCHES UPWARD IN QUIET TRADING

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Oil prices edged up Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange in quiet pre-weekend trading.

"It was a dull day and the market hovered unchanged for most of the day," said Peter Beutel, a trader at Brody, White and Co. in New York. "Coming into the weekend, traders were leery about getting into the market, so the market was just in a holding pattern."On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate - the principal U.S. crude for immediate delivery - rose 2 cents to $18.83 a barrel.

WTI hit a high on the Merc of $18.88 a barrel and a low of $18.74 a barrel during the session.

Home-heating oil for February delivery increased 0.02 cent to 52.02 cents a gallon, while unleaded gasoline gained 0.15 cent to 53.02 cents a gallon.

On the U.S. Gulf Coast spot market, where oil is sold to the highest bidder, WTI increased 5 cents to $18.60 a barrel.

Prices ended mixed on the European spot market, where the United Arab Emirates' Dubai light - the key OPEC crude from the Middle East - lost 7 cents to $14.68 a barrel.

Britain's widely traded North Sea Brent crude rose 1 cents to $17.15 a barrel on the spot market. On the International Petroleum Exchange in London, Brent for March delivery declined 11 cents to $17.31 a barrel.