It was the message the oil market has been hoping to hear.

Minutes from a July 31-Aug. 1 policy meeting suggest the Federal Reserve is prepared to take new steps to boost the U.S. economy. Oil rose after the release of the minutes on Wednesday, although the gain was tempered by concerns about Europe's fragile economy and slower global growth.

Benchmark oil rose 42 cents to finish Wednesday at $97.26 per barrel.

Oil prices have risen about $8 per barrel since Aug. 1, partly on hopes that the U.S., Europe and China would do more to increase growth in their respective economies. Slower growth cuts into the demand for oil and other energy products.

The minutes show that Fed officials spoke with increased urgency about the need to provide more help to the economy unless it improved significantly. But there were no specific details about what steps might be taken or a timeframe for any action.

Earlier, a government report showed U.S. crude inventories shrank for a fourth consecutive week. Crude supplies fell by 5.4 million barrels, more than twice the 2 million barrel decline predicted by analysts. Crude inventories totaled 360.7 million barrels as of last week.

At the pump, the national average for gasoline fell less than a penny overnight to $3.716 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and the Oil Price Information Service. That's about a quarter more than a month ago and about 15 cents higher than a year ago.

In other trading, Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, rose 27 cents to end at $114.91 per barrel in London.

Other futures prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Heating oil rose 0.44 cent to end at $3.1287 per gallon.

— Wholesale gasoline increased 3.9 cents to end at $3.1042 per gallon.

— Natural gas rose 5.1 cents to end at $2.826 per gallon.


AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger in Washington contributed to this report.