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Oil prices mixed to flat on weak U.S. GDP

The economy grew in the first quarter by 0.5 percent, against 1.4 percent in the previous term.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Crude oil prices drifting slightly lower at the start of trading Thursday after U.S. data show a drop in first quarter gross domestic product. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI
Crude oil prices drifting slightly lower at the start of trading Thursday after U.S. data show a drop in first quarter gross domestic product. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 28 (UPI) -- A long rally in crude oil prices faded in early Thursday trading following a string of reports showing lingering weakness in the global economy.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 0.5 percent in the first quarter, down from the 1.4 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter. The slowdown followed statements from the U.S. Federal Reserve that inflation was below the long-term objective of 2 percent in part because of declines in energy prices.

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The Fed said it expected the economy would nevertheless improve over the medium term as energy prices recover and the labor market strengthens. Though wages remain suppressed, the Commerce Department said Thursday that disposable income increased 3.2 percent in the first quarter, against a 2.7 percent increase in the fourth quarter.

Recent trends in crude oil prices were supported in part by higher consumer demand for gasoline. A rally that saw oil prices rebound almost 30 percent since the start of the month faltered in early Thursday trading on the weak GDP figures from the United States.

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The price for Brent crude oil fell by 0.1 percent to open in New York at $47.11 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, was down 0.2 percent to $45.25 per barrel.

Overseas, European statistics show per capita household incomes increased by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an increase of 0.4 percent the previous term. Consumption per capita, meanwhile, decreased 0.1 percent after increasing 0.5 percent in the third quarter of last year.

In terms of European unemployment, data show it ranges from as low as 2.5 percent to as high as 34 percent in some regions.

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A short-term market report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration said demand is driving crude oil prices higher, "but high inventories should constrain further price increases."

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