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Crude oil drops under $97 per barrel

NEW YORK, May 16 (UPI) -- Oil prices dropped under $97 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday as high gasoline prices looked poised to derail consumer demand.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline dropped to $3.955 per gallon Monday from Sunday's $3.961, AAA said.

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Analysts say the $4 per gallon mark is a tipping point, a price likely to dissuade consumers from driving, lowering demand and keeping pressure on gasoline prices.

In New York, June delivery West Texas Intermediate crude prices lost 41 cents from a recent settlement to reach $96.95 per barrel. Home heating oil prices shed 1.58 cents to $2.8586 per gallon. Reformulated blendstock gasoline prices also lost 1.58 cents to reach $2.9153 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas prices gave up 3.2 cents to $4.286 per million British thermal units.

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