Oil prices slipped below $103 a barrel Thursday after a report indicated that manufacturing in China, the world's second-biggest economy, shrank again in February.
By early afternoon in Europe,
benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was down 46 cents to $102.85 a barrel
in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract expires
Thursday. The April contract was down 53 cents at $102.31.
Oil prices fell after a monthly survey
by HSBC found that China's manufacturing, a pillar of the economy, contracted
for a second straight month.
The HSBC purchasing managers' index
also declined to the lowest since July, a sign of the extended slowdown in
China as leaders in Beijing try to clamp down on an investment boom and refocus
the economy on domestic consumption.
"Results from this private sector
survey have deteriorated for four months now, which indicates an unambiguous
trend of domestic growth deceleration," Societe Generale economist Wei Yao
said in a report.
Uncertainty about protests in
Venezuela, a major U.S. oil supplier, as well as export disruptions in Libya
and South Sudan kept a floor under oil prices.
Energy markets are also looking ahead
to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on U.S. stockpiles of
crude and refined products.
The report, due later Thursday, is
expected to show an increase of 1.9 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a
reduction of 1.3 million barrels in gasoline stocks in the week to Feb. 14,
according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of
A report from the industry-funded
American Petroleum Institute released late Wednesday showed a drop of 470,000
in crude supplies while gasoline stocks added 1.4 million barrels.
Brent crude, a benchmark for
international oils, was down 80 cents at $109.67 a barrel on the ICE Futures
exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on
- Wholesale gasoline lost 3.11 cents
to $2.9657 a gallon.
- Heating oil inched down 1.99 cents
to $3.0527 a gallon.
- Natural gas fell 8.6 cents to $6.063 per 1,000 cubic feet.