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Oil prices little affected by strike

NEW YORK -- Oil prices slipped below $69 a barrel yesterday after a report that a strike in Nigeria hasn't affected oil exports from Africa's largest crude producer alleviated the market's supply concerns.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery dropped 21 cents to settle at $68.65 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for August delivery lost 20 cents to finish at $70.22 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Gasoline futures, however, ended higher at $2.2467 a gallon, up 1.86 cents.

Retail gas prices continued their decline from late May record highs. AAA said the national average price for unleaded gasoline was $2.996 a gallon yesterday, down from $2.998 a gallon Wednesday and $3.209 a month ago.

According to Dow Jones Newswires, traders of West African crude oil said Nigerian supplies are unaffected by the strike so far, with exports proceeding normally. The news service also said the Nigerian government was meeting with union representatives to discuss the strike and union demands.

Nigeria's labor unions launched a strike Wednesday aimed at overturning government price increases on gasoline, among other demands to which the government already has conceded.

The development followed a directive by Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, or Pengassan, to its members to shut down both production and loading facilities by midnight Wednesday, as part of the union's efforts to force the government to meet its demands.

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