Oil prices down amid sagging Europe retail sales

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In this Thursday, March 22, 2012, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks at the TransCanada Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. Oil Prices fell on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, after the government reported that stocks of crude are still running much higher than usual for this time of year. A weekly report from the Energy Information Administration showed that inventory has barely moved at the key oil hub in Cushing, Okla. AP/LM Otero

BANGKOK — Oil prices fell Thursday after disappointing retail sales figures in Europe dampened investor appetite and reports showed crude stocks still running higher than usual for this time of year.

Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 9 cents to $87.79 a barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 62 cents to finish at $87.88 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, said Wednesday that retail sales across the 17 European Union countries that use the euro fell 1.2 percent in October, double September’s decline. The figures provide further evidence that households remain gloomy over the economy and are reluctant to spend. Analysts at CME Group said the retail figures were weaker than expected.

U.S. oil inventories are well above average for this time of year, according to the Energy Information Agency, even though supplies fell 2.4 million barrels last week, more than the 1.25 million barrel decline expected by analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Separately, the American Petroleum Institute said oil supplies dropped 2.2 million barrels for the week ending Nov. 30.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, rose 4 cents to $108.85 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Analysts said concerns that Syria might be readying chemical weapons for use against rebels trying to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad could see Brent prices swing higher.

“We could see Brent crude trading higher if Syria and the West move into a dangerous negotiation period — Syria knowing very well the repercussions of it actually using the weapons but the West equally uneasy about the prospect that the regime is desperate and might miscalculate,” said Peter Esho, chief market analyst at City Index Group in Sydney.

In a commodities report, Goldman Sachs forecast the average price for benchmark crude in 2013 at $105.50 per barrel and at $99 per barrel in 2014.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Heating oil rose 0.6 cent to $2.996 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.3 cents to $3.687 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.1 cent to $2.636 a gallon.

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