NEW YORK (AP) – Oil prices tumbled below $130 a barrel for the first time in more than a month Thursday, as crude’s dramatic slide entered a third day accompanied by a sharp sell-off in natural gas.

The declines accelerated amid growing concerns that the weakening economy and creeping inflation are eroding demand for fossil fuels in the U.S. and other large energy-consuming nations.

Oil is now more than 10 percent cheaper per barrel than it was on Monday; natural gas prices are down more than 20 percent just since the Fourth of July. Still, experts are not convinced that prices have turned a corner.

A number of market observers say there simply wasn’t enough support for the recent run up in natural gas prices, and that this week’s sell-off of oil has only helped speed the declines.

“Any time oil goes up or down on Nymex, it’s going to have a carry-over effect on natural gas,” said Michael Rieke, senior managing editor for power and gas at energy research firm Platts.

Some market observers have said last Friday’s record above $147 a barrel could represent a peak price for oil, at least for the time being. But like a number of others, Pawlicki was reluctant to say whether the market’s latest swoon represented a lasting shift.

“I think it’s too early to call a top to this market,” Pawlicki said.

Reports of a pre-dawn explosion that damaged an oil pipeline in Nigeria’s restive south – the sort of threat to supply that has helped fuel crude’s recent rally – did little to prop up prices Thursday.

Attacks on oil industry infrastructure in the past two years have slashed oil output by almost a quarter in Nigeria, Africa’s top crude producer.

At the gas pump, prices held steady at a record $4.114 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. Diesel rose to a new record of $4.845, up more than half a penny.


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