Oil prices drop but avoid new lows

Oil prices dropped on Monday, weighed down by economic strains in China and the United States, the world's two-biggest crude consuming countries, analysts said.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April dipped five cents to $110.35 a barrel in London midday deals. The contract had on Friday slumped to a six-week low at $109.82.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April, fell 20 cents to $90.04 a barrel. It had reached a two-month low point of $90.04 on Friday.

China's official purchasing managers' index released Friday showed growth in manufacturing activity slowed last month, suggesting a recent pick-up in the world's number two economy is weaker than initially thought.

Sentiment was hurt also as across-the-board cuts of $85 billion in federal spending in the United States kicked in on Friday.

Economists have warned that the cuts could lead to job losses and hinder growth in the still fragile economy, a key global economic engine.

The spending cuts "won't brighten the outlook for growth or the unemployment rate", DBS Group Research said in a report.

US President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Congress to find a balanced approach by blending "smart" cuts with reforms.