Oil rises above $103 after hitting 6-week low

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By ALEX KENNEDY, Associated Press

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices dwelled near six-week lows Friday in Asia amid signs Western powers plan to release strategic crude reserves soon.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 63 cents to $103.41 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dived $2.63 to settle at $102.78 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

Brent crude for May delivery was up 35 cents at $122.74 per barrel in London.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Thursday that there's a "good chance" that the U.S. and Europe will agree to release some of their oil reserves. Investors are mulling how much the additional supply would lower oil prices, which have jumped from $75 in October.

"A strategic stock release of some sort seems highly likely over the next few months," Barclays Capital said in a report. "A large part of a potential stock release is already being priced in and has been one of the key deterrents from prices moving higher."

Some analysts expect crude has peaked for the year as slower global economic growth undermines demand for oil.

Capital Economics expects Brent crude to fall to $95 by the end of the year and $85 in 2013.

"The global economic recovery is set to disappoint," Capital Economics said in a report. "Europe is facing a deep recession, which would only be made worse if oil prices stay elevated for much longer."

In other energy trading, heating oil was up 0.9 cent at $3.18 per gallon and gasoline futures rose 0.9 cent at $3.35 per gallon. Natural gas slid 0.8 cents at $2.14 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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