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Afghan officials say a car bomb has exploded inside an elite gated community linked to the family of President Hamid Karzai near the southern city of Kandahar. At least nine people are dead and more than 70 wounded.
Kandahar government spokesman Javeed Faisal says the Friday evening blast happened inside Aino Mina, a housing complex on the northern outskirts of the city that was developed in part by Mahmood Karzai, the president's brother.
He says the car bomb exploded next to a restaurant area where families were dining. An investigation is underway into how the attacker slipped past the community's heavy security.
Dr. Samad Ahmadi said at least nine bodies had been brought to Mirwais Hospital. He added that many of the wounded were in critical condition.
Fitch Ratings agency has downgraded Slovenia's credit grade by one notch, citing a weak economic outlook and a frail banking system.
It cut the government bond rating to BBB+ from A-, which is still investment grade. It left a negative outlook, suggesting there's a risk of another downgrade.
Fitch said the prospects for Slovenia's economy and its public finances have deteriorated in recent months as international investors worry the country might struggle to overhaul its banks. It predicts Slovenia's debt will rise to 72 percent of annual GDP this year, from 22 percent in 2008.
It said the government has shown "a renewed sense of urgency in addressing bank balance sheet clean-up and structural reforms." However, it has concerns over the administration's stability and its ability to sustain the reforms.
Brazil's Congress has approved legislation aimed at modernizing and expanding the country's overcrowded ports and attracting private investments in the sector.
The legislation approved Thursday night allows the private sector to invest in state-owned ports and lifts restrictions that have hindered the building of private terminals.
It eliminates a rule that forced private companies with their own terminals to only handle their own cargo. They now can handle third-party goods.
The government says the legislation will help eliminate bottlenecks that have had hurts exports such as soybeans.
It is part of a government plan to invest 54 billion reals ($27 billion) to make the country's ports more efficient and improve the competitiveness of Brazilian exports by reducing freight costs by 20 percent.
A new Organization of American States study commissioned in response to calls by some Latin American leaders for rethinking the drug war discusses possible decriminalization of consumption of marijuana as part of a public health approach.
The $2.2 million study makes no firm recommendations, instead suggesting several possible ways to stem the illicit drug trade, which has fueled violent crime and corruption and even destabilized governments.
The study emphasizes drug abuse as primarily a public health issue. That echoes the approach of the U.S. government. But the U.S. has strongly opposed decriminalization even though voters in two states have legalized marijuana.
The report was presented Friday by OAS chief Jose Miguel Insulza in Bogota to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Bombs that exploded outside two mosques in a village in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 15 people Friday, underlining the challenge of militant violence facing a new government set to take power under the leadership of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The blasts at the two Sunni Muslim mosques also wounded 70 people, said tribal police officer Mohammad Jamil Khan. Both of the mosques were badly damaged, and the roof of one of them collapsed. The mosques were located in Baz Darrah village in the Malakand district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said another tribal police officer, Badshah Rehman.
Shahid Ali, who was in the first mosque that was attacked, said the explosion came just as worshippers were starting Friday prayers.
"I rushed out with others and saw several people bleeding and crying," Ali told The Associated Press by telephone. "There was dust and smoke around."
Ali rushed to the second mosque after it was attacked and saw that its roof had caved in and it was on fire.
"Many people are buried under the rubble," he said.
Rescue workers were trying to retrieve the dead and wounded from the debris, Rehman said.
Ameer Wahab, an injured college student at a hospital, said he was among more than 100 people inside the main hall of the mosque where the Imam (prayer leader) had just finished the Friday sermon when a deafening bang was heard from the veranda of the mosque.
"I don't know how I managed to get out of that hell. There was fire and debris, my feet, my face was burning and something hit me at arm," Wahab told The Associated Press.
Dr. Zardost Khan at Dargai Hospital, where Wahab was admitted, said 35 injured and one dead were brought to his hospital while many more injured and dead were taken to other hospitals in surrounding areas.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but suspicion will likely fall on the Pakistani Taliban.
The Sunni militant group has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years that has killed thousands of civilians and security personnel. The militants have attacked Sunni mosques in the past, perhaps because the worshippers did not follow their extremist brand of Islam.
The Pakistani army has mounted multiple operations against the militants in the northwest, but they have proven resilient and continue to carry out near-daily attacks.
The Taliban recently launched a series of attacks in the run-up to national elections on May 11 in an attempt to derail the vote. Pakistanis defied the militant group by coming out in large numbers to cast their ballots.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N Party was the big winner in the election and appears set to form the next government. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, is expected to form the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Both politicians have called for negotiations with the Taliban, and Khan has even said that Pakistani troops should stop battling the militants and pull out of areas of the northwest. Now he faces the task of applying his election platform to the challenges of governing one of Pakistan's most violent areas.
Sharif's government will also seek to turn around Pakistan's economy, which is hampered by power outages that last up to 18 hours a day in some parts of the country.
Pakistan has turned to neighboring Iran to help deal with the crisis. On Friday, a spokesman for Pakistan's Ministry of Commerce said that Iran is providing electricity to several towns and villages in southwest Baluchistan province at cost of around $3 million a month.
Paying for the electricity is complicated by U.S. sanctions preventing financial transactions with many Iranian banks because of the country's suspect nuclear program, said Mohammad Ashraf. Therefore, Pakistan plans to pay for the electricity by exporting wheat to Iran.
"This food supply doesn't come under international sanctions Iran is facing," Ashraf said.
Iran sent Pakistan a bill for $53 million for electricity supplied up to mid-February, said Ashraf. Pakistan plans to pay by sending Iran 1 million tons of wheat. The Pakistani government on Thursday approved sending 100,000 tons of wheat as the first installment. The first ship carrying about 30,000 tons is expected to sail to Iran sometime next week, Ashraf said.
Pakistan also has plans to build a pipeline to import natural gas from Iran, despite the threat of U.S. sanctions.
Indonesia has executed three death row inmates who were convicted of mutilating a man and murdering a family.
Attorney General Office spokesman Untung Arimuladi says the three Indonesian men were executed by firing squad Friday at a high-security prison on Nusakambangan island.
A court in South Sumatra province had sentenced 48-year-old Jurit bin Abdullah and 52-year-old Ibrahim bin Ujang to death in 1998 after they were found guilty of beheading and mutilating a man.
The third inmate, 47-year-old Suryadi Swabuana, was convicted of killing an entire family at a house in the province in 1991.
Arimuladi said six other convicts are to be executed this year.
More than 140 people are on death row in Indonesia, mostly for drug crimes and about a third of them are foreigners.
A cellphone video purportedly depicting Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine is being shopped by a group of Somali men involved in the drug trade.
The Toronto Star reports that two of its reporters have viewed the 90-second video three times. It apparently depicts Ford sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, as he inhales from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. Ford, 43, then trades barbs with an individual not seen on camera who goads the mayor on topics like Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and the high school football team Ford coaches.
"I'm f---ing right-wing," Ford appears to mutter at one point. "Everyone expects me to be right-wing. I'm just supposed to be this great … "
Ford later uses a homosexual slur in reference to Trudeau and seemingly refers to the players on the football team as "just f---ing minorities." Sources told the newspaper that the video was shot sometime last winter at a house south of Dixon Road and Kipling Avenue in Toronto. Attempts to reach Ford or members of his staff for comment by the newspaper were unsuccessful.
Dennis Morris, an attorney retained by Ford, said Thursday's publication of details related to the video by Gawker.com was "false and defamatory," adding that by viewing any video it's impossible to tell what a person is doing.
"How can you indicate what the person is actually doing or smoking?" Morris said.
Ford's chief of staff, Mark Towhey, declined to speak to a Star reporter when reached Thursday night.
The video, which was shot on a cellphone, was reportedly captured by a person who claimed he has supplied crack cocaine to Ford, who was elected in 2010.
The alleged incident recalls Marion Barry, who was videotaped smoking crack cocaine in January 1990 while he served as mayor of Washington, D.C. He was later arrested by FBI officials on drug charges and served six months in federal prison before being re-elected to Washington's City Council in 1992. He was later re-elected as mayor in 1994.
The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says one of its medical facilities located in a rural but violent region of South Sudan has been ransacked and destroyed.
The group said Friday the attack leaves 100,000 people without medical care in South Sudan's Jonglei state.
MSF — as the group is also known — said its hospital infrastructure was systematically damaged in last weekend's attack. The hospital is the only facility in Pibor Country. The nearest alternative facility is 90 miles (145 kilometers) away.
MSF did not blame a group for the attack. It noted that the facility has treated government soldiers and that region suffers from a conflict between government troops and an anti-government militia led by David Yau Yau. The government accuses Sudan of arming Yau Yau's rebellion.
An emerging nationalist Japanese political party whose co-leader outraged many with remarks about Japan's wartime and modern sexual services has expelled a lawmaker for accusing ethnic Koreans of involvement in prostitution.
The Japan Restoration Party on Friday urged the lawmaker, Shingo Nishimura, to retract his comments suggesting many ethnic Koreans are engaged in prostitution in Japan. Nishimura withdrew his remarks, but the party expelled him anyway.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a founder and co-leader of the party, angered Japan's neighbors by saying this week that the Japanese military's wartime practice of forcing Asian women into prostitution was necessary. He also angered the U.S. by suggesting that American troops based in southern Japan should patronize legal adult entertainment establishments to reduce sex crime there.
South African police say 23 youths have died over a period of nine days at initiation ceremonies that include circumcisions and survival tests.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Leonard Hlathi says police have opened 22 murder cases in the deaths in the northeastern province of Mpumalanga. He says an inquest is being held into the 23rd death of a youth who complained of stomach pains and vomited.
Hlathi said Friday that all the deaths occurred at initiation government-registered sites where medical practitioners usually are present. The government became involved to prevent such unnecessary deaths. Some 30,000 youths signed up for initiation this year.
Spokeswoman Phumla Williams said the government sends condolences to the families.
A main opposition group in Bahrain says police have searched the home of the Gulf nation's most senior Shiite cleric, who has strongly sided with anti-government protesters.
The reported raid could touch off more clashes on the strategic island nation, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
The group Al Wefaq says security forces entered the home of Shiek Isa Qassim early Friday in Diraz, about 10 kilometers (six miles) west of the capital, Manama. Qassim was not at home at the time, but his family members were present.
The statement said the teams searched the home and left, but police helicopters patrolled the area for hours after.
Bahrain has faced more than two years of unrest amid an uprising by majority Shiites seeking more political rights from Sunni rulers.
A security official in northeast Nigeria says soldiers have shelled suspected camps of Islamic extremists fighting in the region, killing at least 21 people.
The official said Friday that the fighting happened Thursday in the Sambisa Forest Reserve, just south of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. The official said that soldiers would remain in the area to secure it.
The official also said that Nigeria's government shut off mobile phone service to parts of northeast Nigeria as soldiers moved in to enforce an emergency declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan over three states there. Phone service was restored Friday, but the official said the phones likely would be shut off again.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about the operation.
An Egyptian security official says policemen at the country's main crossing point into the Gaza Strip have closed the border on their own initiative to protest the abduction of their colleagues.
The official said Friday that the guards will keep the border closed until four of their colleagues, who were abducted in the Sinai peninsula Thursday with three others, are freed. He spoke anonymously according to the rules.
Authorities believe the kidnappers are militants, who acted after another militant was alleged to have been tortured in prison. Officials have said negotiations with the kidnappers are underway.
Gaza's Interior Ministry confirmed the closure in a statement. Sinai militants are believed to have contact with other groups in the coastal territory.
AP writer Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza contributed to this story.
The Moroccan woman at the center of a sex scandal involving former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi is testifying publicly for the first time.
Karima el-Mahroug took the witness stand Friday in the trial of three Berlusconi aides charged with recruiting her and other women for prostitution. They deny the charges.
El-Mahroug, known by the nickname Ruby Heart Stealer, has made carefully orchestrated statements to the media since the scandal broke but has never publicly given sworn testimony. Both she and Berlusconi deny having had sex.
Prosecutors in Berlusconi's separate trial on charges of paying for sex with a minor and trying to cover it up say her testimony is unreliable and are relying on her sworn statements. That trial is nearing a verdict.
An Egyptian Coptic cleric who was mistreated during Orthodox Easter services is threatening to sue.
Video supplied to The Associated Press shows Israeli police shoving Arsanious el-Orshalimi and putting him in a headlock. The incident took place during Orthodox Christian Holy Saturday in Jerusalem's Old City earlier this month. The event drew thousands of people to the area, and hundreds of Israeli police were on guard.
A dozen church leaders in the Holy Land later signed a letter expressing concern over the incident.
El-Orshalimi says he will not remain silent and will "take this issue to court because of all the pain that I suffered."
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Friday the officers involved are being questioned. He said police will work to prevent such incidents in the future.
A human rights group says it has found documents and physical evidence indicating Syrians were arbitrarily detained and tortured in government prisons in the eastern city of Raqqa.
Rebels overran the city in February and facilitated access to Human Rights Watch.
The group says its researchers visited Raqqa in late April and inspected security facilities that belonged to the government and military intelligence.
HRW found documents, prison cells, interrogation rooms and torture devices in the detentions centers. The evidence appears "consistent with the torture former detainees have described," the New York-based group said in a report released Friday.
Raqqa is the first Syrian city under full opposition control.
HRW has been documenting abuses on both sides of Syria's civil war since the beginning of the conflict in March 2011.
The Philippine envoy to Taiwan is advising thousands of Filipino workers there to eat at home and avoid the streets as emotions run high on the island over the shooting death of a fisherman by the Philippine coast guard.
Philippine envoy Amadeo Perez said Thursday after returning from Taipei that the government has verified at least one attack, in which a Filipino was beaten with a bat. Perez says Taiwanese police are investigating.
Taiwan has frozen the hiring of Filipino workers, cut trade exchanges and discouraged travel to the Philippines after its government brushed aside an apology from the Philippine president as insufficient. Nearly 87,000 Filipinos work in Taiwan, a fraction of about 10 million who work abroad to escape poverty and unemployment at home.
A six-member U.N. team led by a former Syrian planning minister is drawing up a comprehensive postwar reconstruction plan even as the country's civil war rages on with no apparent end in sight.
A joint U.S.-Russian push to bring together Syria's political opposition and representatives of President Bashar Assad's regime to negotiate a peaceful transition has given their work new urgency.
In a rare interview, the U.S.-educated economist, Abdullah al-Dardari, told The Associated Press that more than two years of fighting have cost Syria at least $60 billion and caused the vital oil industry to crumble. A quarter of all homes have been destroyed or severely damaged, and much of the medical system is in ruins.
Now, he says, the Syrians have to be ready to rebuild when the fighting ends. He says his team has been overwhelmed with requests for a reconstruction plan to support the U.S.-Russian initiative on the off chance it succeeds.
"I see a glimmer of hope," said al-Dardari, who now works for a Beirut-based U.N. development agency. "There appears to be more readiness for a political compromise by different groups in the opposition and by officials in the government."
Earlier this month, the U.S. and Russia agreed on a joint push to get Syria's political opposition and representatives of the Assad regime to negotiate a political transition in Syria. An international conference, possibly to be held in early June, would help launch talks.
Despite much skepticism, the initiative, announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week in Moscow, is the first serious attempt in a year to end Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 70,000 people and displaced more than 5 million.
The two sides remain far apart on the terms for negotiations, with the opposition insisting Assad must step down first and the regime unwilling to commit to an open-ended cease-fire. Both say they want to hear more about the agenda and participants before agreeing to talks.
Al-Dardari's plan, known as the National Agenda for the Future of Syria, is being drafted on the assumption that the conflict, now in its third year, will end by 2015 and that Syria will remain territorially united with a central government based in Damascus, regardless of who ends up ruling the country.
"Is that possible? If one looks at the situation today, then the immediate reaction is, 'No, it's not possible,'" al-Dardari said.
"However, I think the human losses and the catastrophic destruction should create sufficient moral pressure on the parties of this conflict — internal and external, since this has become a proxy war — to think seriously of a political compromise."
Syria's vicious civil war, in which the government has relied heavily on its air power to crush the rebels, has destroyed towns and wiped out entire blocks of apartment buildings. Centuries-old markets and archaeological treasures — once a major tourist draw and source of revenue — have been gutted by flames and gunfire in places like Aleppo and Homs — an irreplaceable chapter of history wiped out in a few hours of battle.
Factories, oil pipelines, schools, hospitals, mosques and churches have been systematically destroyed.
The fighting has devastated the Syrian economy, halting the country's oil exports and destroying much of its manufacturing industry and infrastructure.
Deep divisions among Syria's opposition and rebel groups are likely to complicate any international effort to help in reconstruction. Syrians also are convinced they will get little outside help to rebuild.
Al-Dardari appears well placed to be a leading figure in postwar reconstruction plans.
A Sunni Muslim who served as Syria's minister of planning for two years until Assad named him deputy prime minister for economic affairs in 2005, al-Dardari has been credited with masterminding the opening up of Syria's socialist-style economy into a free market enterprise, courting foreign investors and advocating political reforms to accompany the country's economic transformation.
He quietly left his government post in the summer of 2011, a few months after the uprising erupted against Assad's regime, which is dominated by Syria's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. He joined the U.N soon after and remains a neutral figure who meets with opposition representatives and government officials.
Since August, he has been working as chief economist at the Beirut-based U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), heading a team of six economists and 30 experts inside and outside Syria.
Al-Dardari knows he faces a monumental task in any reconstruction effort.
He estimates the overall damage to Syria's economy three years into the conflict at $60-$80 billion. The economy has shrunk by about 35 percent, compared to the 6 percent annual growth Syria marked in the five years before the conflict began in March 2011. The economy has lost almost 40 percent of its GDP, and foreign reserves have been extensively depleted. Unemployment has shot up from 500,000 before the crisis to at least 2.5 million this year.
The fighting has destroyed or damaged 1.2 million homes nationwide, a quarter of all Syrian houses, al-Dardari said. In addition, around 3,000 schools and 2,000 factories have been destroyed, and almost half of the medical system — including hospitals and health centers — is in ruins.
To rebuild the 1.2 million homes, Syria needs $22 billion, plus an additional $6 billion to provide electricity, water, gas and other infrastructure, he estimates.
"The projections are sobering, if not scary," al-Dardari said, adding that fighting needs to end to strengthen the chance of Syria remaining a unified country, not a collection of self-ruled, sect-based entities.
"The fighting needs to stop soon, very soon, and it needs to end with a political solution that will preserve national sovereignty and territorial integrity, or there will be no economic reconstruction, and we'll lose Syria as a country altogether," he warned.
His team has put the reconstruction of the country's energy sector as a top priority. "It will provide a major source of cash for a country that will be stripped of cash," al-Dardari said.
Before the uprising, the oil sector was a pillar of Syria's economy, with the country producing about 380,000 barrels a day and exports — mostly to Europe — bringing in more than $3 billion in 2010. But the vital industry has buckled as rebels captured many of the country's oil fields, setting wells aflame and looters scooping up crude. Exports have ground practically to a standstill as production has dwindled.
The priority for any postwar government, al-Dardari said, will be repairing the pipelines and wells that were destroyed, rebuilding Syrian refining capacity to its prewar level of 200,000 barrels a day and bringing daily oil exports to 160,000 or 170,000 barrels a day.
His group is also in touch with Syrian industrialists and businessmen who would form the crux of any reconstruction effort.
The prospect of implementing any rebuilding plan hinges on the ability of the country's warring parties to come together, al-Dardari said — a tall order in the face of the sectarian hatred and brutal revenge killings that have marked the uprising,
But without territorial unity, a central authority and a strong, functioning civil administration across the country's 14 provinces, Syrian investors, who al-Dardari says will provide the bulk of funds for rebuilding, will not return and infuse the needed cash.
"If I were a Syrian businessman or woman who left Syria and took my business with me, and were to fly back into Damascus airport, I would want to see that Syrian customs — not some sort of other entity — and Syrian police are there," al-Dardari said.
Al-Dardari's project does not address the political makeup of a postwar government in Damascus.
"We are planning for the rebuilding of Syria after the dust settles," he said. "We don't interfere in the question of who should run Syria."
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In a bid to safeguard biodiversity and the Caribbean's tourism-based economy, regional political leaders and corporate executives will gather Friday on billionaire Richard Branson's private island with the aim of protecting 20 percent of the region's coastal resources by 2020.
Participants are expected to announce various commitments to advance the "Caribbean Challenge," an initiative that is touted as the first comprehensive conservation endeavor in the region of scattered islands that has 10 percent of the world's coral reefs and some 1,400 species of fish and marine mammals.
To safeguard the Caribbean's future, Branson says politics and business-as-usual will have to change. The adventuring CEO and founder of the Virgin Group of companies is co-hosting the meeting of political and business leaders at Necker Island, his home in the British Virgin Islands where he has developed an ultra-exclusive eco-resort that showcases renewable energy technology and reintroduced flamingoes.
"It's just so important to get every single Caribbean country 100 percent behind protecting the wonderful sea life and the wonderful reefs and mangroves, and therefore the species that occupy our oceans," Branson said in a phone interview from the island.
British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith and Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell are also co-hosting the gathering of delegations from nine Caribbean countries, chiefs of resort companies and cruise lines, representatives of the World Bank, United Nations and other international bodies, private foundations and environmental groups.
The Nature Conservancy, an international conservation group headquartered in Virginia, is helping to sponsor the summit and has been providing technical assistance to participating governments for years. The conservancy touts the Caribbean Challenge, begun in 2008, as among the world's most ambitious conservation initiatives.
"The Caribbean is truly paradise under threat, and today's focus is a critical step toward a brighter future," Glenn Prickett, chief external affairs officer with the Nature Conservancy, said in an email.
If the Caribbean, the world's most tourism dependent region, takes strong steps now to protect its natural resources, conservationists say it will put itself in a far stronger position to protect its small economies and cope with future threats from climate change and ocean acidification due to greenhouse gases.
The challenges are many in the ecologically stressed Caribbean, which covers some 10,000 square kilometers (3,860 square miles). Once brilliant coral reefs have lost their luster due to warming waters and disease. Live coral cover has plummeted to an average of just 8 percent from 50 percent in the 1970s, the International Union for Conservation of Nature says. Three-fourths of the reefs are considered threatened, also degraded by overfishing, runoff pollution and coastal development.
"In the past, the Caribbean has not been great at protecting the eagle rays and the sharks and the reef fish and so on," Branson said.
Some of the Caribbean Challenge's participating countries — Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and the British Virgin Islands — have already taken steps to reach their conservation targets.
The Dominican Republic has actually exceeded its 20 percent goal by creating more than 30 new protected areas in recent years. The Bahamas established the largest marine protected area in the region by expanding a national park in Andros from 185,000 acres to 1.28 million acres. Jamaica has set up several "no-take" fishing sanctuaries.
But there are questions about how deep the political will really is in a region with heavily indebted governments. Political leaders have long spoken about the need for protecting coasts, developing alternative energy sources and diversifying tourism-dependent economies but little has been accomplished. One country, Antigua & Barbuda, recently dropped out of the initiative for reasons that are not clear.
Branson said strong conservation efforts would pay off for years to come for a region where 70 percent of the people live in coastal settlements and a $20 billion tourism industry provides more than 2 million jobs.
"Many, many people who come to the Caribbean come because they want to enjoy the reef, they want to see the sea life on the reef," Branson said. "And therefore they want to see it better protected."
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The price of oil fell below $95 per barrel Friday after new signs of a choppy economic recovery in the U.S.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was down 26 cents to $94.90 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 86 cents to close at $95.16 on the Nymex on Thursday.
Applications for U.S. unemployment aid rose last week by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the highest in six weeks, the Labor Department said. A report on housing was neutral, while manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region fell.
That data came on top of the 17-nation euro region remaining mired in recession after contracting for a sixth-straight quarter in the January-March period.
"Several forces should keep the region in recession, including continued fiscal austerity, poor credit conditions in peripheral economies and weak external demand," analysts at Capital Economics said in a market commentary.
"The US is the only major advanced economy to have achieved steady growth since 2009. The latest data have been mixed, but the fundamentals look strong enough to sustain a solid, if unspectacular, recovery."
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, fell 28 cents to $103.50 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.3 cent to $2.86 a gallon.
— Heating oil added 0.7 cent to $2.902 a gallon.
— Natural gas rose 1 cent to $3.942 per 1,000 cubic feet.