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Oil prices down as Libya plans to resume output

KUALA LUMPUR--Oil prices were subdued Friday amid the possibility of new supplies from the Middle East after a Libyan militia said oil terminals could reopen.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery was down 9 cents to US$97.41 a barrel at mid-afternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 6 cents on Thursday to settle at US$97.50. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, eased 4 cents to US$108.34 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

The Libyan militia that shut down most of the country's oil terminals for months has said the terminals will reopen Dec. 15. Libya has been losing millions of dollars every day after production dropped from 1.4 billion barrels a day to a few thousand since the closure.

Libya has said it hopes to increase output to 2 million barrels a day once unrest ebbs. OPEC members may have to reduce their production to keep prices from dropping sharply and hurting oil revenues that underpin their economies.

The Libyan news added to a picture of falling fuel demand in the U.S. after the Energy Department said gasoline and distillate supplies rose last week by more than three times the amount analysts were expecting.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was barely changed at US$2.637 a gallon.

— Heating oil was little changed at US$2.98 gallon

— Natural gas dropped 4.3 cents to US$4.366 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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