Warming weather in USA counters supply fears

This week's cold snap in the US seems to have ended, triggering an oil prices slide and easing worries over thin fuel stocks in the world's biggest energy consumer. US light crude settled down at US$45.76 a barrel, in London, benchmark Brent futures fell to US$42.37. Forecasters expect milder conditions over the coming days, though most forecasts predict a colder-than-normal Q1-2005. That could strain winter fuel stocks already 13% lower than in 2003. Militants urged attacks on Saudi oil facilities and Russia sold off top exporter YUKOS's main producing arm, renewing anxiety about output from the world's two biggest oil producers. Statements last week from Osama bin Laden and the Saudi wing of Al Qaeda, calling on guerrillas to disrupt output from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, served as a reminder of instability as the kingdom battles a 19-month wave of violence. The months-long turmoil over YUKOS came to a head after its main oil unit Yuganskneftegaz, which pumps more than Opec-member Qatar, was auctioned off on Sunday to mystery firm Baikal for US$9.4 billion to pay back taxes. A leap in China's oil imports illustrated that global oil demand growth remains strong, although it is expected to slow in 2005 after surging this year.
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