Source AP ©

Oil prices fall below USD 62 a barrel on weak crude demand

Oil prices retreated below US$62 a barrel in Asian trading Monday following a sharp fall late last week on continued expectations of weak crude demand.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery dropped 26 cents to US$61.67 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange midmorning in Singapore.

"It looks like a continuation, a reaction here in Asia, of the very sharp dip on Friday in the U.S.," said Tobin Gorey, a commodity strategist with Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney. "Its taken quite a sharp fall on the open of U.S. trade and quite a few people haven't quite caught up yet."

On Friday, the contract dipped US$1.26 to settle at US$61.93 a barrel.

"With no signs of rise in crude demand any time soon, traders have closed longs," said Ken Hasegawa of Tokyo brokerage Himawari CX.

Concerns of a shortfall in U.S. gasoline supplies ahead of peak summer demand have supported prices in recent weeks and analysts still think the market for gasoline remains fundamentally tight.

The U.S. summer driving season begins Memorial Day weekend on May 26-28, and many analysts worry that refineries won't be producing enough gasoline by then to meet demand.

"The gasoline issue is still the pressure point for the market," Gorey said.

The market also shrugged off news of the latest kidnaping in Nigeria, the world's eighth-largest oil exporter.

Gunmen kidnapped a Belarussian woman who worked a caterer for a company that supplies food to oil workers in Nigeria's oil-rich southern region, police and Belarussian officials said Sunday. So far this year, 95 foreign workers have been kidnapped in Nigeria.

Nigeria's oil reserves make it one of Africa's richest countries but it suffers from rampant corruption and violent crime and the majority of its 140 million inhabitants live in abject poverty.

In other Nymex trading Monday, heating oil futures lost 0.55 cent to US$1.8254 a gallon (3.8 liters) while natural gas prices fell 12.3 cents to US$7.815 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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