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Crude prices fall amid poor US data, higher stockpiles

Data showing the US economy stalled in the first quarter of this year and an increase in US commercial crude stockpiles helped push oil prices down on Wednesday.

NEW YORK: Data showing the US economy stalled in the first quarter of this year and an increase in US commercial crude stockpiles helped push oil prices down on Wednesday.

New York's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for June delivery dropped $1.54 to $99.74 a barrel.

In London trade, Brent North Sea crude for June slid 91 cents to $108.07 a barrel.

The US government's growth estimate for the January-March quarter came in much lower than expected, at an annual pace of 0.1 percent, suggesting that the extremely frigid winter virtually froze economic activity.

Adding to that was a rise in the Department of Energy's weekly estimate of crude oil stocks, which gained 1.7 million barrels to 339.4 million barrels, the highest weekly level since 1982.

The Federal Reserve, after a two-day policy meeting, confirmed the recent weakness in the US but said that economic activity "has picked up recently," injecting some optimism into the market.

Downward pressure on prices also came from the expected resumption of oil exports from a key terminal in Libya, the Zueitina port that has been shut down by protests for months.

"Libya is also a cause for (lower prices) after the announcement that their second port is ready to take on their first oil tanker," said Tan Chee Tat, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

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