Oil below $93 ahead of US crude inventory data

The price of oil fell below $93 a barrel Thursday amid concerns about global economic growth and as traders awaited the latest U.S. crude inventories data.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for July delivery was down 46 cents to $92.67 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday, the contract fell $1.88, hit by concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve may ease up on its stimulus measures and that the Wall Street rally was cooling.

Later Thursday, the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration will release its latest figures on U.S. stockpiles of crude. Data for the week ending May 24 is expected to show a decline of 1.5 million barrels in crude oil stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Also weighing on oil prices was the International Monetary Fund’s cut to its 2013 economic growth forecast for China from 8 percent to 7.75 percent due to weaker global demand. The IMF said the Chinese economy should remain robust, but the revised prediction about the world’s second-largest oil consumer was considered bearish for the oil market.

Meanwhile, ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will meet in Vienna on Friday to discuss, among other things, production levels. But more complex issues also face OPEC, including the rise of shale oil production in the U.S. The Paris-based International Energy Agency says total production could top 9 million barrels a day by 2018, which would mean near self-sufficiency for the U.S. as well as significantly less dependence on OPEC imports.

JBC Energy in Vienna estimated OPEC’s output in May at 30.4 million barrels, mainly on higher crude production by Saudi Arabia. While OPEC has a voluntary quota of 30 million barrels a day, the group has been overshooting its target for months, resulting in plentiful supplies and helping keep prices below $100 a barrel.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was down 68 cents to $101.75 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline dropped 1.4 cents to $2.784 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 1.98 cents to $2.845 per gallon.

— Natural gas shed 0.2 cent to $4.182 per 1,000 cubic feet.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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