Oil slides below $100 mark on Japan disaster - KMOV.com

Oil slides below $100 mark on Japan disaster

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By Afton Spriggs By Afton Spriggs

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Oil prices continued to slide Friday, dropping below $100 per barrel for the first time in more than a week, after a massive earthquake spawned a tsunami that slammed into northern Japan.


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Japan is the third-largest oil importer in the world. It's unclear how much its economy will be affected by the disaster. The news helped slow down what had been a sharp, three-week rally in oil markets.

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Benchmark West Texas Intermediate for April delivery tumbled $2.06 to $100.64 per barrel in morning trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices dropped as low as $99.01 per barrel earlier in electronic trading.

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Oil prices have surged 24 percent since the middle of February, crossing the $100 mark as uprisings in Libya forced much of the country's oil production to shut down. The wave of pro-reform protests across North Africa and the Middle East rattled energy markets, and many oil traders fretted about unrest spreading to Saudi Arabia. Rallies planned in that country for Friday appeared to draw small crowds, and none in the capital, as Saudi rulers deployed hundreds of police and blocked roads. Officials also beefed up security around the country's oil fields.

"This is a market that's ripe for a correction," analyst and trader Stephen Schork said. "Everyone was waiting for this 'Day of Rage"' in Saudi Arabia, "but at this point, there aren't any headlines" to suggest that the country's oil fields are in danger.

Meanwhile gasoline prices in the U.S. continue to rise. The national average for regular climbed above $3.54 per gallon on Friday. That's 42.7 cents higher than a month ago and 76.6 cents more than the same time last year, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil was unchanged at $3.0416 per gallon and gasoline futures dropped 3 cents at $2.9936 per gallon. Natural gas rose 7 cents to $3.902 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude gave up $1.64 $113.79 per barrel.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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