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Oil prices fall in New York after weak US data
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Jan 31, 2012

Oil prices fell Tuesday in New York as markets fretted about weaker-than-expected economic data from the United States, the world's biggest consumer of crude.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in March, ended the session at $98.48 a barrel, down 30 cents from Monday's closing level.

Across the Atlantic, Brent North Sea crude for March delivery edged up 12 cents to $110.87 a barrel in London.

The New York benchmark contract made gains earlier amid growing optimism that Greece was homing in on a deal with private creditors to avert a sovereign debt default.

But the market did an about-face after fresh data showed US consumer confidence dropped in January and prices in the depressed housing market fell for the fifth month running in November.

The disappointing numbers raised concerns about the strength of US energy demand.

"Data that came out today said that we're not as strong as we thought we were, so that kind of takes away some of the momentum," said Phil Flynn at PFG Best.

Crude oil prices earlier had been buoyed by Japan, a major oil importer, which said that household spending had risen for the first time since the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year.

Traders were also closely watching the latest efforts by European Union leaders to resolve Greece's woes with a massive new debt relief deal.

Prices also were underpinned by escalating tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, which said Sunday it was suspending oil production after it accused Khartoum of stealing $815 million of its crude.

At issue are pipeline fees to transport the landlocked South's oil to port via the rump state of Sudan.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that tensions and the oil row had become a major threat to regional peace and security.

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Oil prices rally on Japan data
London (AFP) Jan 31, 2012 - Oil prices rallied on Tuesday following better-than-expected economic data from Japan, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in March, jumped $1.55 to $100.33 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for March delivery advanced $1.59 to $112.34.

"Crude prices are trading higher after industrial production in Japan rose faster than forecast in December," said Westhouse Securities analyst Peter Bassett.

Japan, a major oil importer, said Tuesday that household spending in the world's third largest economy rose for the first time since the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year.

Industrial output also rose 4.0 percent in December, exceeding market expectations of a 2.8 percent gain and reversing November's 2.7 percent dip.

The upbeat data showed a slight rebound in the Japanese economy, which was hit hard by the March disaster that left more than 19,000 people dead and missing, and triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

"Oil prices are higher ... reacting largely to the positive Japanese economic data showing increased spending," said Ken Hasegawa, energy desk manager at Newedge brokerage in Japan.

Traders are also closely watching the latest efforts by eurozone leaders to resolve Greece's debt woes.

Following a European Union summit that saw agreement on a new deal to avert future huge annual deficits, EU president Herman Van Rompuy called for a new deal with Athens "by the end of the week" on a second bailout.


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China lodges protest with Sudan over workers capture
Beijing (AFP) Feb 1, 2012
China on Tuesday lodged a formal protest with Sudan over the capture of 29 Chinese workers by rebels, after dispatching a team to the African nation to help secure their release. The foreign ministry also called for the release of the workers, who were taken away when rebels in Sudan's South Kordofan state attacked their camp on Saturday. Vice Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng on Tuesday su ... read more

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