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Industrial Parts Dep

Oil prices fall to near $105 as supplies grow

Prices tend to fall as supplies go up. U.S. supplies surged last week by twice the amount that analysts were expecting, according to government data released Wednesday.

By CHRIS KAHN
The Associated Press

3/28/2012

NEW YORK — Oil prices dropped 2 percent Wednesday amid indications that Western nations may be considering a release of oil reserves onto the world market. In the U.S., the supply of oil is already ample, and growing.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.27 to $105.07 per barrel in New York while Brent crude lost $1.67 to $123.87 per barrel in London.

Prices tend to fall as supplies go up. U.S. supplies surged last week by twice the amount that analysts were expecting, according to government data released Wednesday. And French officials said the U.S. and Europe are thinking of supplying markets with more oil from emergency reserves in hopes of pushing prices even lower.

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The tactic briefly worked last summer. At the time, the concern was the loss of Libyan oil, then about 2 percent of global output. This time, policy makers are concerned that a prolonged standoff with Iran could disrupt supplies.

Western nations fear that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, and they've been putting pressure on the oil-rich nation to open its facilities to inspection. Iran denies the claim, though it has turned away international inspectors who could confirm it.

As both sides dig in, Japan and the European Union have cut back on imports of Iranian oil. An international banking service company has also made it more difficult for Iran to sell oil to other countries. Iran is the world's third-largest oil exporter, and the potential loss of its oil on the market has driven oil prices about $15 per barrel higher than they otherwise would be, analysts said.

On Wednesday, France's government said it is considering a release of emergency stockpiles as part of a U.S.-led effort to cool off the rise in oil prices. Government spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse said France is waiting for recommendations from the International Energy Agency before tapping its reserves.

In Germany, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government had received no official request to release its reserves. "If there were concrete proposals or requests, we would examine them," Steffen Seibert told reporters.

The rise in oil has driven up U.S. gasoline prices by 19 percent this year. The national average climbed Wednesday, adding more than a penny to $3.911 per gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Experts say gasoline could rise as high as $4.25 per gallon ($1.12 a liter) this year, breaking the record of $4.11 per gallon set in 2008.

In other energy trading, heating oil lost 1.97 cents to $3.1989 per gallon and gasoline futures fell by 3.59 cents to $3.3697 per gallon. Natural gas futures gave up 3.8 cents to $2.17 per 1,000 cubic feet, close to a 10-year low.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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