Oil price falls below $96 a barrel

BANGKOK The price of oil fell Monday ahead of the release later this week of economic data from the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies, and a speech by the Federal Reserve chief.

Benchmark crude for June delivery was down 55 cents to $95.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 86 cents to close at $96.02 a barrel on Friday.

Later in the week, the U.S. government will release home sales and durable goods orders for April and HSBC will release its monthly survey on China's manufacturing growth.

Analysts are also awaiting testimony Wednesday from Ben Bernanke, who heads the U.S. central bank. Of special interest are any possible hints that the Fed might be preparing to scale back its super-loose monetary policy because recent data has pointed toward a sustained economic recovery.

"Markets will be watching closely for any signs of what the Fed's next move will be," said analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore in a commentary.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, fell 56 cents to $104.08 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline fell 0.9 cents to $2.89 a gallon.

- Heating oil fell 1 cent to $2.924 a gallon.

- Natural gas gained 8.7 cents to $4.14 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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