The price of oil fell toward $96 a barrel Monday as weak Chinese manufacturing raised the prospect of subdued demand.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 12 cents at $96.44 a barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 49 cents to end Friday at $96.56.

China's manufacturing weakened again in June amid a credit crunch and slower U.S. and European orders, two surveys showed Monday, adding to signs that growth in the world's second-largest economy is decelerating.

Oil's fall was braked by better economic news from Japan, where business confidence among major manufacturers turned positive for the first time in nearly two years.

Brent crude was down 25 cents at $101.91 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Natural gas rose 3.5 cents to $3.60 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil fell 0.2 cent to $2.857 per gallon.

— Wholesale gasoline shed 0.8 cent to $2.707 per gallon.