Oil prices started the New Year Thursday with a gain amid hopes for stronger demand following a 7 percent surge in 2013. Benchmark oil added 28 cents to $98.70 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Hopes for the solid demand in coming months are pegged to the signs of a recovery in the U.S., which is expected to help revive other major global economies. Brent crude, a benchmark used to price international crudes used by many U.S. refiners, added 28 cents to $111.08. In other energy futures trading: — Natural gas futures were little changed at $4.24 per thousand cubic feet. — Heating oil was also little changed at $3.07 a gallon. — Wholesale gasoline was unchanged at $2.79 a gallon.