Oil below $72 in Asia amid economy doubts

SINGAPORE: Oil prices lingered below $72 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as investors remained uncertain about the strength of global economic growth and demand for crude.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 16 cents at $71.73 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 70 cents to settle at $71.89 on Monday.

Investors are staying cautious as swelling debt levels in Europe, high unemployment in the U.S. and fears of Chinese monetary tightening continue to cast doubt over the global economic recovery.

"Geopolitical tension, ongoing financial risks from Greece, Portugal and Spain and further liquidation of speculative long positions will continue to weigh on the oil price," ANZ Banking Group said in a report.

Crude demand remains sluggish despite support from cold weather in the U.S. northeast.

Analysts expect U.S. crude stocks to grow 2 million barrels, according to a survey released Monday by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil fell 0.1 cent to $1.8845 a gallon, and gasoline was down 0.5 cent at $1.889 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.9 cents to $5.44 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was down 18 cents at $70 on the ICE futures exchange.