Oil declines below $100 per barrel ahead of US data expected to show weak retail sales

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By The Associated Press

Oil fell back below $100 a barrel Thursday as investors worried upcoming data would show weakness in the U.S. economy.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery declined 88 cents to $99.49 a barrel by 0945 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose as high as $101.38 the previous day on signs of strong Chinese demand.

A day after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries forecast higher global consumption of oil, investors were looking ahead to U.S. retail sales and initial jobless claims. Economists say last month's U.S. retail spending may have been weak.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, lost 52 cents to $107.82 on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline shed 1.8 cents to $2.919 per gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.1 cent to $3.012 a gallon.

— Natural gas gained 11.1 cents to $4.933 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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