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Oil dips slightly as crude stocks expected to rise

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil prices dipped Tuesday as analysts predicted a rise in U.S. crude stockpiles, underscoring weak demand for fuel.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 8 cents to $93.11 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 10 cents to finish at $93.19 a barrel on Monday.

Analysts estimated that the American Petroleum Institute and the U.S. Energy Information Administration would report an increase in crude oil stocks of 1.5 million barrels for the week ended Jan. 4, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Enthusiasm for oil also has been tempered by Europe's recession and the very modest improvement in the U.S. economy.

"The oil market has no clear direction," said Ken Hasegawa, energy analyst at Newedge brokerage in Tokyo. "We still have a lot of uncertainty about the euro situation and also the economic recovery in the U.S."

The EIA said last Friday that crude supplies fell by 11.1 million barrels, or 3 percent, for the week ended Dec. 28. Analysts expected a drop of just a million barrels.

The American Petroleum Institute will post its inventory report later Tuesday, while the EIA will release its own report Wednesday.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 19 cents at $111.21 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell marginally to $2.777 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $3.037 a gallon.

— Natural gas dropped 1.9 cent to $3.247 per 1,000 cubic feet.