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Oil drifts below $103 a barrel despite China manufacturing improvement

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The price of oil fell Thursday, giving back part of its sizeable jump the day before, despite improvement in Chinese manufacturing.

Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was down 16 cents at $102.96 a barrel at 0650 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract gained delivery gained 73 cents to $103.12 on Wednesday after data released by the Energy Department Wednesday showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories that was more than double what analysts had expected.

A manufacturing survey from China showed a rise in factory activity in July to its highest level in 18 months, a sign that Beijing's stimulus measures were having a positive effect.

Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, was down 14 cents to $107.89 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The price of oil has stayed above $100 a barrel after a civilian jetliner was shot out of the sky last week over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists and as Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip added to risks of instability in the Middle East.

The U.S. data Wednesday showed oil supplies fell by 7.5 million barrels for the week ended July 11. Analysts had expected a drop of 3 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts.

In other Nymex trading:

— Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $2.841 a gallon.

— Heating oil was steady at $2.887 a gallon.

— Natural gas was down 0.1 cent at $3.761 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

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