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Oil Falls Below $49

The benchmark crude falls for the sixth time in seven sessions.
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Updated from 2:48 p.m. EST

Oil prices plunged again Thursday, driven back below the $50-a-barrel level, as a post-election bounce in the December crude contract looked short-lived.

The December futures contract closed $2.06, or about 4%, lower at $48.82, a five week low, in floor trading on the Nymex. Prices are down 11.5% since last Wednesday.

Some traders say President Bush's victory was a boost for prices because his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, had advocated tapping the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

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Weekly inventory data Wednesday showed a sizable increase in U.S. stockpiles, which failed to depress prices.

Short-term supply worries have resurfaced in the market with new sabotage attacks on Iraq's oil pipeline system and the possibility of a strike in Nigeria later this month.

Almost constant supply worries and unusually strong global demand have driven prices up more than 70% this year, making record highs commonplace.Prices topped out at more than $55 a barrel two weeks ago.