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Oil Caps Its First Weekly Decline as Japan Quake

Source: Bloomberg 3/11/2011, Location: Middle East

Crude oil fell in New York, capping the first weekly drop in a month, after Japan’s strongest earthquake on record shut refineries and dissidents in Saudi Arabia failed to stage planned protests.

Oil declined 1.5 percent after the 8.9-magnitude temblor unleashed a 7-meter (23-foot) tsunami that killed hundreds of people in the world’s third-largest oil-consuming country. Saudi Arabian police and anti-riot vehicles patrolled central Riyadh today, preventing a “Day of Rage” proclaimed by activists.

“This is in response to the tsunami in Japan and the lack of the Day of Rage in Saudi Arabia,” said Hamza Khan, an analyst with the Schork Group Inc., a consulting company in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “If the Japanese refineries are down, then we’re going to see lower demand for crude oil.”

Oil for April delivery tumbled $1.54 to $101.16 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since March 1. Oil decreased 3.1 percent this week while it has risen 23 percent in the past year.

Oil also declined as President Barack Obama said he’s prepared to tap the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve if the supply situation warrants.

Futures have surged 11 percent since Jan. 14, when the president of Tunisia was ousted in the first of the unrest that has rocked the Middle East and North Africa, including Saudi Arabia’s neighbors Yemen, Oman and Bahrain. Prices touched 29- month high of $106.95 a barrel in intraday trading March 7.

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