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Oil drifts below $82 as monthlong rally stalls

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[March 19, 2010]  SINGAPORE (AP) -- Oil prices drifted below $82 a barrel Friday in Asia, pulling back from a monthlong rally that was fueled by mostly positive news about the U.S. economy.

HardwareBenchmark crude for April delivery was down 28 cents to $81.92 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 73 cents to settle at $82.20 on Thursday.

Crude jumped to $83 a barrel earlier this week from $69 early last month on expectations sluggish consumer demand will eventually catch up with a steadily improving U.S. economy.

Some analysts say investor concerns that low interest rates and massive government spending could spark inflation will help keep crude prices from a protracted downturn.

"Oil is receiving immense support from inflationary fears and a rising Dow Jones index," Sander Capital said in a report. "Oil should stay above $80 next week."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent Thursday, the index's eighth straight gain.

In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil fell 0.72 cent to $2.112 a gallon, and gasoline was steady at $2.301 a gallon. Natural gas held at $4.084 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was down 29 cents at $81.19 on the ICE futures exchange.

[Associated Press; By ALEX KENNEDY]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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