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Oil price down slightly on uncertainty

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[September 25, 2008]  LONDON (AP) -- Oil prices were down Thursday at under US$105 a barrel as investors weighed supply delays in the Gulf of Mexico against concerns that the U.S. credit crisis will slow global economic growth and hurt crude demand.

Light, sweet crude for November delivery was down US$1.48 to US$104.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by noon in Europe. The contract fell overnight 88 cents to settle at US$105.73.

RestaurantAbout 66 percent of oil production and 61 percent of natural gas output in the Gulf of Mexico remains shut-in after the passage of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, according to the U.S. Minerals Management Service. The Gulf area is home to a quarter of U.S. oil production and 40 percent of refining capacity.

Mexico's state oil company said Tuesday it temporarily reduced oil production because U.S. refineries damaged by Ike have canceled shipment orders.

Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, lowered its daily output by 250,000 barrels a day. The company said it expects production to be back to normal by the end of the week. Pemex produced an average of 2.75 million barrels a day in August, the latest available output figure.

OPEC's decision earlier this month to cut production by 520,000 barrels a day and militant threats to Nigerian oil operations have added to the supply shortage.

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Traders are also concerned about the turmoil in the U.S. financial system will impact economic growth and crude demand from the world's biggest economy.

President George W. Bush strongly urged Congress to act quickly to pass a $700 billion financial industry bailout, warning Americans in Wednesday speech that failing to act fast risked dire economic consequences such as disappearing retirement savings, rising foreclosures, lost jobs and closed businesses.

"Markets hate uncertainty, and this thing is hanging over everybody's head," said Gavin Wendt, head of mining and resources research at consultancy Fat Prophets in Sydney. "I don't think anyone is too keen to take a position in oil either way right now."

With the administration's original proposal facing significant changes in Congress, top House leaders issued an upbeat statement late Wednesday saying there was progress toward revised legislation that could pass. Bush summoned presidential candidates Barack Obama, John McCain and legislative leaders to an extraordinary White House summit in hopes of hashing out a deal.

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Oil investors are also eyeing the impact the bailout plan may have on the value of the dollar. Investors often buy crude futures as a hedge against a weakening dollar and inflation.

The price of oil "depends on the dollar, it has nothing to do with oil demand and supply," Chakib Khelil, the president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, told journalists at a press conference in Algiers on Wednesday.

He said that oil prices would rise if the dollar weakens, as investors would use oil to hedge against the depreciating currency.

The dollar fell slightly in morning trading on Thursday against both the 15-nation euro and the Japanese yen. The euro bought US$1.4702; the yen bought US$0.0094.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures for October delivery fell 3.92 cents to US$2.9741 a gallon, and gasoline prices dropped 1.96 cents to US$2.5751 a gallon. Natural gas declined 1.5 cents to US$7.664 per 1,000 cubic feet.


In London, November Brent crude fell US$0.98 to US$101.47 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

[Associated Press; By EMILY FLYNN VENCAT]

Associated Press writer Alex Kennedy contributed to this report from Singapore.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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