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Oil prices fall in Asian trade

SINGAPORE, Feb 20 – Oil prices fell in Asian trade on Friday in a market plagued by weak demand despite a sharp price rebound the day before, analysts said.

New York\’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, fell 93 cents to 38.55 dollars a barrel.

The contract was to expire at the close of trade later Friday.

Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shed 59 cents to 41.40 dollars.

Analysts said Thursday\’s price rebound did not indicate any increase in global energy demand, which has fallen heavily during the worldwide economic slowdown.

"We may in fact be seeing a drawdown in prices… (The rebound) was more a supply-driven event, not a pickup in demand," said Mark Pervan, senior commodities analyst for ANZ bank, Melbourne.

Pervan said prices rose because of cutbacks in output imposed by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) rather than increased energy demand.

On Thursday the benchmark New York contract rose by almost five dollars and Brent jumped more than two dollars after US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data showed US crude reserves fell 200,000 barrels in the week ending February 13, after several weeks of significant increases.

A greater-than-expected rise in petrol stockpiles indicated that energy demand was still low, Pervan said.

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Morgan Stanley analysts Hussein Allidina and Seth Kleinman also cautioned against reading the EIA data as the beginning of a rebound in demand.

They said they were not counting on demand recovering in the near term, despite US President Barack Obama\’s effort to stimulate the recession-plagued US economy.

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