Oil falls below $93 on high supplies, OPEC output

Associated Press

The price of oil fell below $93 a barrel Friday after OPEC stuck to its current production target despite ample supplies of crude.

U.S. crude oil futures fell 80 cents to $92.81 in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries to make gasoline, fell $1.05 to $101.14 in London.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. slipped less than a penny to $3.61 per gallon. Prices rose 10 cents during the month, or 3 percent, mainly due to refinery problems in the Midwest. Still, May prices averaged less this year than they did in either of the last two years, according to AAA.

The automobile association expects the average gasoline price to continue to slide, and fall below $3.50 in June.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said Friday it would keep its official output target of 30 million barrels a day even though world oil supplies are abundant and some regions, including the majority of the European Union, are in recession.

At the end of a meeting at its headquarters in Vienna, OPEC said that steady prices in recent months showed that the market was "adequately supplied" and that no action was needed.

Oil prices have traded in a range between $88 and $98 per barrel through the first five months of the year. The average for the year is $94.01 per barrel, just 13 cents less than the 2012 average.

OPEC has been producing more oil than members agreed to, helping to boost global supplies. Analysts say that could lead to lower prices in the future. "In view of the current oversupply and in the absence of any positive surprises from OPEC, oil prices are likely to remain under pressure," said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

Prices are also being pressured by weak economic outlooks around the world. When economies slow, drivers, shippers and travelers use less gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

Unemployment in the 17 countries that use the euro rose to 12.2 percent in April, according to data released Friday, the most severe since the shared currency was introduced in 1999 .

The U.S. economy, meanwhile, grew at a modest 2.4 percent annual rate from January through March, slightly slower than initially estimated. That, teamed with higher oil production and the use of more fuel efficient vehicles, has sent the nation's oil supplies soaring.

The U.S. Energy Department said the nation's supply of oil rose last week by 3 million barrels to 397.6 million barrels, the highest level since the government started collecting the data in 1978.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 3 cents to $2.77 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 5 cents to $2.80 per gallon.

— Natural gas fell a penny $4.02 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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