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Oil falls after ECB says eurozone economy weak

BANGKOK (AP) — The price of crude oil fell Tuesday after the head of the European Central Bank described the economic outlook of the 17 countries that use the euro as weak in the near term.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 53 cents to $95.33 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Nymex floor trading was closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday. The contract fell $1.45 to finish at $95.86 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told European lawmakers on Monday that the economic outlook for euro nations remained weak at the start of 2013 but the bank expects "a gradual recovery later this year." The ECB forecasts the region's economy will shrink 0.3 percent in 2013.

Political developments in two of the region's struggling economies have also heightened investor concerns. In Spain, charges of bribery have put pressure on Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to resign. In Italy, polls favor Silvio Berlusconi in elections next week. Berlusconi, a former premier, has called for billions in tax rebates and amnesty for Italians who haven't paid them.

Brent crude, used to price many international varieties of oil, was down 17 cents to $117.21 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Heating oil fell 1.1 cent to $3.191 a gallon.

— Wholesale gasoline rose 1.2 cents to $3.326 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 2.8 cents to $3.181 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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