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Oil slips near US$103, China factory index drops

Oil prices slipped Thursday after a report indicated manufacturing in China, the world's second biggest economy, shrank again in February.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was down 9 cents to US$103.22 a barrel at 0720 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract expires Thursday. It rose 88 cents to US$103.31 a barrel on Wednesday. The April contract was down 18 cents at US$102.66.

Oil fell after a monthly survey of factory managers by HSBC found that China's manufacturing, a pillar of the economy, contracted for a second straight month.

Slower economic growth means less demand for energy.

Bent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 58 cents at US$109.89 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

Energy markets are also looking ahead to a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline lost 1.5 cents to US$2.982 a gallon.

— Heating oil inched down 1.1 cents to US$3.062 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 17.1 cents to US$5.978 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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