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Oil prices ease on 'disappointing' Chinese data
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) July 1, 2011

World oil prices fell Friday on a sharp slowdown for manufacturing in China, the world's biggest consumer of energy, and new US steps toward releasing crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Sentiment was also hit by downbeat manufacturing data in Britain and the eurozone, and only slightly positive figures for June from the United States.

The benchmark WTI crude for August delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) fell 48 cents to $94.94 a barrel.

In London, Brent North Sea for August lost 71 cents from Thursday to $111.77 a barrel.

"The oil market received some pressure from the disappointing Chinese PMI figures that raised renewed concerns for an upcoming slowdown in the Chinese economy," said Sucden brokers analyst Myrto Sokou.

Growth in China's manufacturing activity almost stalled in June, with the official PMI falling for the third straight month to 50.9 in June from 52.0 in May, official data showed.

Separately, the HSBC China Manufacturing PMI fell to an 11-month low of 50.1 in June from 51.6 in May.

Although trade was tentative ahead of the long US July 4 holiday weekend, Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates said the coming release of US oil stocks, part of an International Energy Agency intervention to slow prices rises, also had weight on prices.

"Earlier this morning, the government announced the award for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and they are going to sell 30 million barrels of oil to a number of refiners and traders," Lipow said.

"That has put pressure on the market... some people though they would not have enough bids and sell less than 30 million barrels.

"On the other side, the stock market is rallying on the manufacturing news and that has given people reason to buy crude ahead of the week end," he added.

The ISM purchasing managers index for the US manufacturing sector climbed 1.8 percent in June to a better-than-expected 55.3, from 53.5 in May.

But that came after a sharp seven percent drop in May from April, and the June index remained far below the 60-plus level achieved in the first four months of the year.

The ISM's new orders index rose just 0.6 percent in June, a suggestion of continuing fragility in the sector.

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China 'helpful' on south Sudan: US
Washington (AFP) July 1, 2011 - China has played a helpful role in encouraging Sudan to move forward with reconciliation with the south, a senior US official said Friday, despite concerns over Beijing's role in Darfur.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir enjoyed a red-carpet welcome this week in China, outraging human rights groups as he is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in the Darfur region.

Princeton Lyman, the US special envoy on Sudan, repeated that the United States opposed foreign travel by Bashir but credited China's message on south Sudan, which is set to become independent on July 9 after decades of bloodshed.

"We have every indication that their message to President Bashir has been, 'Look, you've got to resolve the issues of the CPA,'" Lyman said, referring to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement which set the stage for southern independence.

"'We want to see peace between the two. We'll be with you and we'll be with the south,'" Lyman said of the Chinese communication with Bashir. "And that's the right message, and so that's helpful in itself."

Lyman, who has met several times with his Chinese counterpart Liu Guijin, suggested that Beijing was motivated by self-interest as it is a major investor in Sudan's oil sector.

"They know the oil is on both sides of the border. They're moving rapidly to establish their relationships and programs in the south," Lyman said.

North-south fighting killed two million people and displaced another four million over 20 years. The separate conflict in Darfur against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government has claimed at least 300,000 lives and displaced 1.9 million others since 2003, according to the United Nations.

US lawmakers and human rights groups have been strongly critical of China's role in Darfur. Representative Frank Wolf said Bashir's visit was further proof of China's material support to "genocide" in Darfur.

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Iraq, Iran sign gas pipeline and supply deal
Baghdad (AFP) July 1, 2011
Iraq signed a $365-million (252-million-euro) contract for Iran to build a pipeline to supply natural gas to power stations in Baghdad, a spokesman for Iraq's electricity ministry said on Friday. The 220-kilometre (140-mile) pipeline will eventually supply 25 million cubic metres of natural gas per day from Iran to power stations in the Quds and Sadr City districts of eastern Baghdad, and tw ... read more

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