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SINGAPORE, May 13, 2011 (AFP)
Oil prices were down in Asian trade Friday as traders weighed crude demand levels and bearish economic data, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, lost 28 cents to $98.69 a barrel in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for June delivery was down 10 cents to $112.88.

The two contracts had closed higher Thursday.

“Perhaps there is a correction of the market due to a reflection of demand levels, which is a healthy thing,” said John Vautrain, a Singapore-based analyst at Purvin and Gertz international energy consultancy.

On Thursday, the International Energy Agency (IEA) cut its outlook for 2011 global oil demand growth by 190,000 barrels per day because of high oil prices and weaker recovery in rich countries.

The IEA said it had trimmed its 2011 forecast for global oil demand growth due to “persistent high prices and weaker IMF GDP projections for advanced economies.”

It put total demand at 89.2 million barrels per day.

“The fall in oil price has been prompted by the ‘triple whammy’ of poor Chinese economic data, falling global stocks and the IEA energy demand downgrade,” said Emma Pinnock, a market analyst at energy consultancy Inenco.

Oil futures are also under renewed selling pressure after the US Department of Energy’s latest weekly report on energy reserves Wednesday showed another increase in crude stockpiles and an unexpected rise in gasoline reserves.

The rises were a sign of softer demand in the world’s largest oil-consuming nation.

There were also concerns over oil demand in China, the biggest energy consumer, as Beijing ramped up efforts to tame inflationary pressure in the world’s second biggest economy.

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