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Oil consolidates near $106 a barrel after US supplies drop for third week in a row

Oil consolidated above $106 a barrel Thursday after U.S. crude supplies fell for a third straight week, a sign of increased demand in the world's largest energy consumer.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 13 cents at $106.35 a barrel at midafternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 48 cents to settle at $106.48 in New York on Wednesday.

Despite cooling economic growth in China, the price of oil was underpinned by another sizable decline in U.S. oil supplies. The U.S. crude inventory fell by 6.9 million barrels last week, bringing the three-week decline to 27.1 million barrels, the Energy Department said.

That was somewhat offset by a sharp decline in gasoline demand compared with last week. Gasoline consumption fell by 570,000 barrels from a week ago, when demand was boosted by drivers hitting the road for the July Fourth holiday. Gasoline supplies rose by 3.1 million barrels.

Analysts expected a decline of 2.5 million barrels in crude oil supplies and no change in gasoline supplies, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

In London, Brent crude fell 16 cents to $108.46 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.7 cents to $3.036 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 0.4 cent to $3.075 a gallon.

— Natural gas dropped 0.2 cent at $3.627 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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