Singapore: Oil prices fell below $74 a barrel Friday in Asia amid expectations a slower economic recovery in debt-saddled Europe will weigh on crude demand.
Benchmark crude for June delivery was down 62 cents to $73.78 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The June contract dropped $1.25 to settle at $74.40.
Crude prices have fallen about 15 percent from early last week as the dollar gained amid a debt crisis in Europe. A stronger dollar makes oil more expensive for investors with other currencies.
The euro rose Friday to $1.2537 from $1.2519 on Thursday while the dollar gained slightly to 92.75 yen from 92.66.
Oil traders have also been eyeing equity markets as an overall barometer of investor sentiment, and the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.1 per cent Thursday. Most Asian stock indices also dropped in early Friday trading.
"The price of oil is currently fighting a losing battle against the dollar and the equities markets," said Mike Sander of Sander Capital.
Investors are concerned that fiscal austerity measures in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece will undermine economic growth and crude consumption.
"It looks like the euro zone economy is going to slow by quite a bit, not helping the overall global economy, nor that of crude oil demand," Sander said.
In other Nymex trading in June contracts, heating oil rose 0.54 cent to $2.1645 a gallon, and gasoline was steady at $2.211 a gallon. Natural gas fell 2.1 cents to $4.263 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was down 34 cents to $79.77 on the ICE futures exchange.