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Oil below $105 amid mixed global economic signs

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[April 03, 2012]  SINGAPORE (AP) -- Oil prices fell to below $105 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as traders eyed mixed signs about the strength of the global economy.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 70 cents to $104.53 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.21 to settle at $105.23 per barrel in New York on Monday.

Brent crude for May delivery was down 45 cents at $124.98 per barrel in London.

Crude has traded near $105 a barrel since February as traders weigh an improving U.S. economy against signs of weakening growth in Europe and China.

Prices were bolstered Monday by a report that showed U.S. industrial production grew in March at a faster pace than February while China said on the weekend that manufacturers also gained momentum in March. However, manufacturing data from France and Germany weakened, suggesting Europe will likely face a recession this year.

Investors are anticipating a possible release of crude reserves by the U.S. and some European countries to help lower prices. Oil exporting countries may also boost output, especially if prices stay elevated.

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"Further price advances will only up the odds of a strategic petroleum reserve release while at the same time encouraging additional OPEC production gains that have been on the rise since late last year," energy trader and consultant Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.

In other energy trading, heating oil was down 1.7 cents at $3.23 per gallon and gasoline futures slid 1.2 cents to $3.37 per gallon. Natural gas fell 1.9 cents to $2.13 per 1,000 cubic feet.

[Associated Press; By ALEX KENNEDY]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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