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Oil prices end mixed amid firm supplies

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Global oil prices were mixed Monday as supplies remained firm and industrial production in China showed signs of a slowdown, possibly signalling a weaker demand for energy, analysts said.

In New York trade, the benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery edged up 11 cents from Friday to finish at $92.06.

In London trade, Brent North Sea crude for April dropped 63 cents to $110.22 a barrel.

The US contract followed Brent lower for most of the session before making a late comeback, with the mood still for a slightly flush market.

"The crude oil market tipped back to the downside in Monday trade as China's industrial output fell short of expectations and Saudi Arabia was reportedly producing more in February than the month before," said Tim Evans at Citi Futures.

"The US market remains well supplied with petroleum. Crude stocks as of March 1 were 10.3 percent higher than a year ago," while domestic production was up 22 percent from a year earlier, he said.

China's weaker economic data took an early toll on prices.

Official figures released Saturday showed inflation in China hitting a 10-month high in February.

Industrial output, which reflects production at China's factories, workshops and mines, rose 9.9 percent year-on-year over the first two months of 2013, compared with 11.4 percent in the same period of 2012.

"The majority of the Chinese economic figures published at the weekend proved disappointing. This illustrates how market players are currently focusing on negative information and the poor market sentiment," said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

Citi estimated prices could continue to slip, with Brent averaging $102 in 2013, and WTI at $87.

But other analysts see prices firming with a slight global economic rebound.

"The supply situation has improved again, and US crude oil inventory numbers are seasonally extremely high and saw another increase last week," said commodity analysts at UniCredit.

"However, we also expect a strengthening on the demand side, as the global economy is set to gain some traction this year."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130311/oil-prices-end-mixed-amid-firm-supplies-0