Oil slips closer to $94 after 4-month low

Picture of oil field pumps taken 28 July 2004 in Santa Cruz del Norte in Havana. Cuba, which has been in dire economic straits since the collapse of the former Soviet bloc which once flooded it with subsidized food and fuel, is eagerly awaiting news of the outcome of oil exploration off the island. The fact that the supply of Venezuelan oil - one third of what Cuba consumes - soon and just as suddenly could be cut off, would plunge Cuba into another economic black hole. That, if Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Castro's only close ally in the region, loses a referendum August 15 on cutting short his term in office and the opposition which has announced the flow of oil to Cuba would stop, comes out on top. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) ADALBERTO ROQUE

The price of oil slipped closer to $94 a barrel Monday after falling more than 7 percent in the past month on ample supplies and muted demand.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was down 31 cents to $94.30 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped $1.77 to a four-month low of $94.61 on Friday.

"Oil prices are finding themselves hardly able at all to recoup any of the losses they suffered last week," Frankfurt-based analysts at Commerzbank said in a note to clients. "This must be interpreted as a negative sign and points to further losses in the coming days -- probably triggered by financial investors who are withdrawing from the oil market."

Ample supplies of crude have weighed on the price in recent weeks. The Energy Department said Wednesday that U.S. supplies increased 4.1 million barrels in the previous week. Over five weeks, supplies rose by more than 25 million barrels.

U.S. refineries are undergoing fall maintenance, which has crimped demand for crude.

"We are now at the nadir of the fall refinery maintenance season. Within the next couple of weeks demand will return to the market. To this effect, the return of refinery demand could help support values at current levels," Schork Report analysts said in an energy markets commentary.

December's possible reduction or "tapering" of the financial stimulus provided to the economy through bond purchases by the U.S. Federal Reserve also weighed on oil prices. Commodities like oil, as well as many stocks, have benefited from the Fed's stimulus program, attracting investors looking for higher returns than the low interest rates offered by bonds.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international crude also used by U.S. refineries, was down 50 cents at $105.41 on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline lost 2.04 cents to $2.525 a gallon.

- Heating oil dropped 1.62 cents to $2.866 a gallon.

- Natural gas shed 9.9 cents to $3.414 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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