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Oil prices below $99 on new Europe debt concerns
Benchmark oil price falls below $99 on possible credit downgrades for France and Austria
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' Oil prices fell Friday on fresh concerns about Europe's economy.

Benchmark crude fell by 49 cents to $98.61 per barrel in New York at midday. Brent crude, which is used to price foreign oil that's imported by U.S. refineries, fell by 67 cents to $110.38 per barrel in London.

Prices dipped on reports that credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's will downgrade France and Austria. The Financial Times reported that those countries will drop a notch from triple-A to AA+.

A downgrade could make it harder for the European Union to raise money and overcome massive government debts. A recession already is expected in the eurozone, and huge spending cuts will likely cut European energy demand this year.

In other energy trading, heating oil fell 2 cents to $3.04 per gallon, while gasoline futures rose 1 cent to $2.74 per gallon. Natural gas fell 4 cents to $2.66 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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