Oil hovers above $74 in Europe amid light trading volume due to Asian, US holidays

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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Oil prices hovered above $74 a barrel Monday, supported by strong economic growth in Japan but held in check by a stronger American dollar.
Trading volume was light, however, due to holidays in Asia and the United States and some Canadian provinces.
By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for March delivery was up 13 cents at $74.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.15 to settle at $74.13 on Friday.
Markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia were closed for the Lunar New Year. Trading in the U.S. is also closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday while P.E.I., Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan celebrated had provincial holidays.
In Japan, the government said Monday that real gross domestic product grew at an annual pace of 4.6 per cent in the October-December period, above economists' forecast of 3.4 per cent.
Oil has crisscrossed the $75 a barrel level in recent months - jumping to $84 last month before dropping to $69.59 earlier this month - as investors eye weak crude demand from the U.S. and Europe offset by growing consumption in developing countries such as China.
"On the demand side, there are no changes in the trend: dead," said analyst Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix in Switzerland. "The U.S. recovery is an oil-less recovery and demand is still lower than the depressed levels of a year ago and massively lower than the levels of 2008."
Traders are also closely watching the Greece debt crisis. Last week, the European Union signalled they would help Greece, but didn't give details about the assistance - those are expected to be discussed by finance ministers at a meeting later Monday.
The debt worries have helped the U.S. dollar make significant gains against euro, which in turn has blocked oil prices from rising, as a stronger dollar makes crude more expensive for investors holding other currencies.
The euro was down to $1.3607 in European trading, down from $1.3612 late Friday in New York, while the British pound rose slightly to $1.5686 from $1.5669 on Friday.
In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil rose 0.11 cent to $1.92 a gallon and gasoline fell 0.2 cent to $1.9293 a gallon. Natural gas rose 0.7 cent to $5.475 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was up 8 cents to $72.98 on the ICE futures exchange.

Organizations: New York Mercantile Exchange, European Union, Nymex

Geographic location: United States, Europe, Japan China Asia Hong Kong Taiwan South Korea Singapore Malaysia Greece Ontario Manitoba Alberta Saskatchewan Switzerland New York London

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