Oil Prices EaseTo Six-Week Low As OPEC Maintains Production Targets

Price of oil dips below $57 a barrel.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Oil prices slipped below $57 a barrel Monday, reflecting continued worries over the U.S. and global economies following an equities selloff last week.

A decision by oil ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to maintain present production targets also appeared to contribute to the downward trend.

''There are concerns that the global equities selloff may not be over and that may impact economic growth and thus oil demand,'' said Victor Shum of Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. ''These concerns and worries about the state of the U.S. economy have taken some momentum out of the oil market.''

Vienna's PVM Oil Associates attributed the recent downturn to ''expectations of a slowdown in economic growth, together with OPEC's recent decision not to cut output further.''

Light, sweet crude for April delivery fell 23 cents to $56.88 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Europe.

The contract fell to a six-week low of $57.11 a barrel after Wall Street slumped last Friday. Stock markets in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Australia rose Monday, and oil prices opened higher before resuming their slump.

The Brent crude contract for April slipped by a penny to $60.29 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

''I think once the worries are over the focus will be back on oil demand,'' Shum said. ''Oil demand remains good. We don't see any slack in Asian oil demand.''

A weekend winter storm in the northeastern United States, a major consumer of heating oil and gasoline, appeared to have little lasting effect on prices. Analysts said that with winter coming to an end, traders are starting to turn their attention to spring and summer demand.

Heating oil futures fell 0.4 cent to $1.6847 a gallon, while natural gas prices fell 5.3 cents to $6.871 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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