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Crude falls in advance of US supply report

LONDON -- Crude oil prices fell by more than $1 a barrel yesterday as expectations of a buildup in US supplies brought some calm to a market that has been rattled recently by supply disruptions in Nigeria and concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

''The emotions swing back and forth, and so does the price," said oil broker Tom Bentz of BNP Paribas Commodity Futures in New York.

Light sweet crude for April delivery fell $1.73 to settle at $61.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where a day earlier the front-month futures contract had gained $1.22.

Nymex gasoline futures were unchanged at $1.4745 per gallon, while heating oil futures dipped 1.43 cents to close at $1.6521 a gallon. Natural gas futures declined 44.8 cents to finish at $7.283 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the United States' fifth-largest supplier, usually exporting 2.5 million barrels daily. Recent attacks on oil facilities there by a militant group have cut production by nearly 20 percent.

But the market seemed to be focusing more on the US inventory data coming today, a day later than usual because of the Presidents' Day holiday.

The Nigerian militants have threatened to fire rockets at any ships transporting crude oil.

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