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Oil prices fall below $49 a barrel as supply grows

SHARE Oil prices fall below $49 a barrel as supply grows

LONDON (AP) — Crude futures fell below $49 a barrel Wednesday as Nigerian oil workers called off an imminent strike and the U.S. government said the nation's oil supply grew.

Still, prices are more than 40 percent higher than a year ago, and traders remain concerned about possible supply disruptions in Iraq, high demand from China's booming economy and speculation over an upcoming OPEC decision on output.

Light sweet crude for March delivery was down 86 cents to close at $48.78 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. A year ago, oil futures settled at $34.47 a barrel.

Brent for March delivery on the International Petroleum Exchange in London was 45 cents lower at $46.51 a barrel.

In its weekly petroleum supply report, the U.S. Energy Department said Wednesday that supplies of crude oil grew last week by 3.4 million barrels to 295.6 million barrels, or 9 percent above year-ago levels. Inventories of distillate fuel, which include heating oil, declined by 2.3 million barrels to 121.5 million barrels, or 4 percent below year-ago levels. The drop in distillate was expected due to increased demand during a cold spell last week.