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Oil near $85 a barrel in Asia as traders weigh signs of China recovery

In this Jan. 24, 2004 photo, fires flare off the gas from crude oil in the northern Iraqi town of Baba Gurgur, outside of Kirkuk, Iraq. Khalid Mohammed

BANGKOK - Oil hung near US$85 a barrel Friday in Asia as traders weighed ample supplies against signs of recovery in China's economy that could boost demand for fuel.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 1 cent at $85.08 a barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract on Thursday rose 65 cents to close at $85.09 in New York.

New factory production and retail sales figures from China, which is one of the world's biggest consumers of crude, added to signs an economic recovery is taking shape after a painful slowdown.

But the improvements in China's economy are still too modest to make up for weakness in Europe and the U.S.

Supplies of crude, meanwhile, are high and more than enough to meet modest growth in demand. U.S. oil production is at 17-year highs.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, was down 40 cents at $106.87 a barrel in London.

In other New York energy futures trading:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.2 cent to $2.605 a gallon.

— Heating oil dropped 0.7 cent to $2.949 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 5.2 cents to $3.556 per 1,000 cubic feet.



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