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Oil near US$99 after China manufacturing drops

AP--The price of oil fell slightly Monday following a drop in China's manufacturing.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 3 cents at US$99.43 a barrel at 0825 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 56 cents to US$99.46 on Friday. Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, fell 28 cents to US$106.64 a barrel

The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index for China released Monday showed manufacturing dropped to an eight-month low.

The index fell to 48.1 from February's 48.5 on a 100-point scale. Readings above 50 indicate expansion. Factory output shrank at the fastest pace in 18 months.

But Asian stock markets were higher Monday as investors bet that China would introduce economic stimulus measures to prevent a deeper slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy.

Investors are also waiting for data on the U.S. housing market with Tuesday's release of the S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for January. Also Tuesday, the government will report on new home sales in February and the Conference Board will release the Consumer Confidence Index for March.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline eased 0.7 cent to US$2.892 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.8 cent to US$2.906 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 2.2 cents to US$4.335 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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