Price of oil falls below $96 a barrel ahead of Fed chief Ben Bernanke testimony to Congress

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The price of oil fell Wednesday as investors waited for a report on U.S. crude stocks and the Federal Reserve's latest views on the U.S. economy.

Benchmark crude for July delivery was down 46 cents to $95.72 a barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The June contract fell 55 cents to settle at $96.16 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.

Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said traders were keeping tabs on the Federal Reserve, whose chairman was to appear before Congress later Wednesday. Traders will be scrutinizing Bernanke's remarks for any hints of a change in monetary policy by the U.S. central bank.

Spooner also said that an increase in crude inventories of roughly 530,000 barrels reported by The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday put downward pressure on prices. Analysts were expecting a decline of 1.2 million barrels in crude, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill.

"Although we are into the driving season, it is still the case that inventory levels are high and production capacity is high, so I think there is a bit of risk to the downside," Spooner said.

A report by the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, which is the market benchmark, will be out later Wednesday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, fell 20 cents to $103.71 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.9 cents to $2.819 a gallon.

— Heating oil lost 1.2 cents to $2.907 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 3.4 cents to $4.226 per 1,000 cubic feet.