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Oil falls on lower demand forecast

VIENNA -- Oil prices fell yesterday after OPEC lowered its 2005 global demand forecast, citing reduced consumption in China during the first half of the year and expectations of slower economic growth in other Asian countries.

The Vienna-based cartel also said its emergency supply cushion would grow in 2006, thanks to rising output and slower growth in worldwide demand.

The latest monthly report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries overshadowed waning concerns about Hurricane Emily's potential destructiveness to oil installations in the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal Minerals Management Service said less than 1 percent of the region's oil and natural gas production had been shut down as a result of rig and platform evacuations.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery fell 77 cents to settle at $57.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Heating oil dropped 3.05 cents to $1.6316 a gallon, while unleaded gasoline fell 4.1 cents to $1.6473.

OPEC said in its monthly report that world demand would expand by 1.62 million barrels to 83.66 million barrels a day -- 150,000 fewer barrels a day than its previous estimate.

While OPEC said it expects demand to exceed 85 million barrels per day in 2006, the cartel said it would have excess production capacity of 4.4 million barrels per day, more than twice today's level.

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