Oil extends losses below $105 per barrel

BANGKOK (AP) — The price of oil fell again Wednesday as traders hunkered down and waited for news of when the U.S. economy might be weaned off the Fed’s stimulus program.

U.S. benchmark oil for October delivery was down 36 cents to $104.75 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

On Tuesday, the contract for September delivery dived $2.14, the sharpest decline in two months, to $104.96 a barrel. Analysts said some of the decline was driven by the expiration of the September contract at the end of trading. The October contract fell $1.75 to $105.11 a barrel.

Traders were awaiting the release Wednesday of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July policy meeting for hints of whether and when it might begin cutting back on its $85 billion a month of bond purchases. Evidence that the U.S. economy is improving and statements from Fed officials themselves have prepped investors to prepare for a winding down of asset purchases as early as September.

The Fed’s stimulus policy has lowered interest rates and made oil and other commodities a more attractive investment by offering potentially higher returns. A “tapering” or phasing out of the program could push down oil prices.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices for imported oil used by many U.S. refineries, fell 35 cents to $109.80 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to $3.078 per gallon.

— Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $2.818 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.7 cents to $3.427 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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