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ENERGY TECH
Oil prices mixed on Europe, China worries
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Dec 15, 2011


Crude oil prices closed mixed Thursday as investors worried about Europe's escalating sovereign debt crisis and China's slowing economy.

The benchmark New York futures contract failed to hold onto gains made earlier in the session despite better-than-expected US economic indicators.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for January, finished the session at $93.87 a barrel, a decline of $1.08 from Wednesday's closing level.

In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January rose 17 cents to settle at $105.09 a barrel.

The WTI contract had shed more than 5.0 percent in New York Wednesday amid fading hopes that the crisis plan unveiled at last week's European Union summit was enough to resolve the eurozone debt crisis.

"Nothing has changed," said Tom Bentz at BP Paribas.

"The market is still very much concerned about the EU problem and the slowdown in China."

Adding to fears of contagion from the debt crisis were weaker data from China, the motor of the global economy and the world's biggest energy consumer.

China's manufacturing activity contracted for the second straight month in December while foreign direct investment fell for the first time in 28 months in November

The New York market earlier had been boosted by a sharp downturn in US weekly jobless claims, which fell to a three-year low last week, and Spain's surprisingly successful government debt sale.

The Commerce Department also reported the US current account deficit fell to its lowest level in almost two years in the third quarter, thanks in large part to growing exports.

In other oil market developments, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told AFP on Thursday that oil giant ExxonMobil has promised to reconsider an exploration deal with Iraqi Kurdistan that Baghdad has strongly opposed.

"We had a meeting with (Exxon) in Washington and we discussed the contracts, some of which are located in disputed areas," Maliki said.

"They promised to reconsider their decision," Maliki said.

ExxonMobil on October 18 inked a deal with Kurdistan to explore for oil and gas in six areas, but Baghdad regards any contracts not signed with the central government as invalid.

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