NEW YORK, N.Y. – The price of oil fell below US$96 per barrel Thursday after the head of the European Central Bank expressed concern over a recent rise in the euro.

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi pledged Thursday to keep a close eye on the economic impact of the rise of the euro, which has gained on the dollar in recent months. It rose from around US$1.23 in mid-August to over US$1.35 earlier this week. A strong euro hurts the export prospects of the 17 countries in the common currency zone.

It also tends to result in higher oil prices by making crude priced in dollars cheaper — and a more enticing investment — for traders using currencies other than the greenback. The euro weakened a little against the dollar on Thursday, and Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery fell 79 cents to finish at US$95.83 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

U.S. stocks were down for the day, and that also contributed to selling in the oil market.

In London, Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 51 cents to end at $117.24 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 4 cents to finish at US$3 a gallon (3.79 litres).

— Natural gas dropped 13 cents to end at US$3.29 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil gained 1 cent to finish at US$3.20 a gallon.

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