Crude oil falls below US$102 a barrel after U.S. factory output slips

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The price of oil fell below US$102 a barrel Thursday as weak economic data in the U.S. suggested demand for crude could fall.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery fell 87 cents to close at US$101.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose 25 cents to close at US$110.44 a barrel in London.

Oil slipped after the Federal Reserve said Thursday that U.S. industrial production dropped in April. The decline in activity, along with weak retail sales data released earlier in the week, suggested demand for U.S. crude may not be as strong as expected.

Also, stockpiles of oil rose by 900,000 barrels last week, while analysts had been expecting a drop.

A stronger dollar also weighed on prices, making crude priced in dollars more expensive — and a less attractive investment — for traders using other currencies.

Brent crude was lifted by the continued absence of Libyan crude from the market as a result of disputes at export terminals and a forecast for higher global demand by the International Energy Agency. The Paris-based IEA raised its forecast for 2014 global crude demand to 92.8 million barrels a day, 65,000 barrels a day more than its forecast a month ago.

“While OPEC has more than enough capacity to deliver, it remains to be seen whether it will manage to overcome the above-ground hurdles that have plagued some of its member countries lately,” the IEA said in its monthly Oil Market Report.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to close at US$2.964 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil fell 1.2 cents to close at US$2.951 a gallon and natural gas rose 10.2 cents to close at US$4.469 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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