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Oil follows stock markets down

Pamela Sampson, AP Business Writer

BANGKOK (AP) -- The price of oil followed stock markets lower Tuesday as U.S. manufacturing growth eased.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 33 cents to $96.74 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents to close at $97.07 a barrel on Monday.

Monday's drop, which was the first since March 21, came as Exxon shut a pipeline that carries oil out of the U.S. Midwest.

Oil prices were also hurt by a report showing weaker-than-expected manufacturing growth in the U.S. The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its index of factory activity slipped to 51.3 percent in March from 54.2 percent in February. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The report contributed to drops in Asian stock markets, providing a negative cue for oil market trading.

Analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said the manufacturing figure was a reminder that "growth remains subpar" in the world's largest economy, an engine being counted on to help drive the global economic recovery.

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

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was up 75 cents to $110.77 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.5 cent to $3.087 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $3.074 a gallon.

— Natural gas was steady at $4.015 per 1,000 cubic feet.