U.S. benchmark oil fell 12 cents to $92 a barrel in afternoon trading Thursday. It had been down more than $1 in the morning. Brent crude, which many U.S. refiners use to make gasoline, fell 67 cents to $112.55 in London.
An increase in new home construction reported Wednesday suggested the U.S. economy was improving and would need more gasoline, diesel and jet fuel in coming months.
At the same time, U.S. oil supplies have climbed higher than expected and are above their 5-year average for this time of year.
China's economic news also offered complicated outlook for oil demand. The slide in the country's growth rate appeared to be slowing, according to data reported Thursday. That could mean Chinese oil demand will pick up. But the data also lowered expectations that China's government will introduce new measures to stimulate the economy. That could keep a lid on demand.
Either way, players in the oil market didn't have much to latch onto.
"There was no surprise, so there's not much impact," said oil analyst Jim Ritterbusch.
Retail gasoline prices continued a recent slide, though they remained at record high for this time of year. The national average retail price was $3.74 per gallon Thursday.
In other energy trading in New York:
— Heating oil fell a penny to $3.17 per gallon.
— Wholesale gasoline fell 5 cents to $2.73 per gallon.
— Natural gas rose 5 cents to $3.52 per thousand cubic feet.