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Oil below US$97 a barrel after reports show weaker manufacturing in US, China

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The price of crude oil dropped Monday in the wake of reports showing weaker manufacturing activity in the United States and China.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery dropped $1.06 to close at US$96.43 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties, fell 36 cents to US$106.04 on the ICE exchange in London.

A Chinese manufacturing index reported Saturday by a government-affiliated agency fell 50.5 points in January from 51 in December, just above the 50-level that signifies expansion.

Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing barely expanded last month as cold weather delayed shipments of raw materials and caused some factories to shut down, a trade group of purchasing managers said Monday. The group said its index of manufacturing activity fell to 51.3 in January from 56.5 in December.

Weaker manufacturing in the world's two biggest economies could reduce global demand for energy.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline was down two cents at US$2.61 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil rose one cent to US$3.01 a gallon and natural gas fell four cents to $4.91 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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