Economy

Oil down ahead of expected trimming in US growth

The price of oil slipped closer to $102 a barrel on Friday ahead of an expected reduction in the estimate of U.S. economic growth in the last quarter.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 14 cents to $102.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the Nymex contract closed 19 cents lower at $102.40.

The U.S. Commerce Department is scheduled to release revised economic growth figures later Friday. Analysts expect the October-December growth rate will be cut to an annualized 2.5 percent from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent.

The price of oil has stayed above $100 for most of February amid expectations that demand for heating oil would rise in the U.S. due to the severely cold weather. Looking ahead, investors will watch for measures from China to boost growth as policymakers are scheduled to hold an annual legislative meeting next month. In Japan, investors want to see if the economy is resilient enough to absorb a sales tax increase in April.

Analysts said oil prices would likely drift lower in coming weeks. "This is suggested by the plentiful supply, the imminent end to the winter in the northern hemisphere and reduced crude oil processing by refineries while maintenance work is carried out," analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt said in a note.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 35 cents to $108.61 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. In other energy futures trading on Nymex: — Wholesale gasoline lost 1.13 cents to $2.9492 per gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.47 cent to $3.003 per gallon. — Natural gas declined 3.4 cents to $4.477 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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