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Oil prices hover below $76 per barrel

BANGKOK — Oil prices hovered under $76 a barrel today in Asia as expectations for stronger fuel demand in the second half were undermined by weaker economic figures from the world’s three biggest economies.

Benchmark crude for September delivery was up 40 cents at $75.79 a barrel at midafternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 35 cents on Friday to settle at $75.39 a barrel, its lowest level in a month.

Oil has dropped from above $81 a barrel early last week amid resurgent investor fears that the world economy may not grow in the second half as much as expected.

Growth figures from Japan today added to evidence that the global recovery is losing momentum. Gross domestic product expanded just 0.1 percent in the second quarter from the previous quarter as consumer spending waned.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported Friday that retail sales excluding autos and gasoline sales fell 0.1 percent in July, continuing a weak trend. One of the biggest obstacles to a strong recovery in the U.S. is anemic consumer spending.

Recent indicators from China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, also show growth is slowing, albeit from a breakneck pace as Beijing clamps down a credit splurge that has driven up real estate prices.

In other Nymex trading in September contracts, heating oil rose 0.8 cent to $2.00 a gallon, gasoline added 0.8 cent to $1.947 a gallon and natural gas fell 0.4 cent to $4.324 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude was up 21 cents at $75.73 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

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