The price of oil fell to near $98 per barrel Monday as investors continued to worry about Europe's debt problems.
Benchmark crude gave up 85 cents to end the day at $98.14 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude, used to price many international varieties, lost $2.27 to finish at $111.89 per barrel in London.
The European debt crisis has yanked oil prices up and down for the past few months as traders assess whether massive debt burdens in Greece and Italy will mean bank failures and perhaps another recession. An economic slowdown across the region would mean weaker demand for oil.
Both countries have named economists as prime ministers, hoping they will shepherd them from the brink of default. Yet high interest rates on Italian bonds indicate a lack of confidence in the economy. The Italian government on Monday paid a 6.29 percent interest rate for $4.1 billion in a sale of five-year bonds — the highest since 1997.
Meanwhile, Libya appears to be moving quickly to resume oil exports that are a key resource for European refineries. Oil officials in Libya say the country should be able to produce up to 700,000 by the end of the year — nearly half of what the country can produce. Production was all but shut down during the past several months because of unrest in the country. Some experts expected a much slower return for Libyan crude.
U.S. stocks pulled back on Monday after last week's rally. The major indexes were down about 1 percent.
Retail gasoline prices fell half a cent to a national average of about $3.42 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.
In other energy trading, heating oil was down less than a penny at $3.1622 per gallon, and gasoline futures lost 6.85 cents to finish at $2.5353 per gallon. Natural gas fell 12.6 cents to end at $3.4580 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.