Oil prices fell below $92 a barrel Friday as weak Chinese figures suggested growth continues to slow in the world's second-largest economy and the International Energy Agency lowered its forecast for global crude demand.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude was down $1.43 to $91.93 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 1 cent on Thursday to settle at $93.36 in New York.
In London, Brent crude was down $1.55 at $111.67 on the ICE Futures exchange.
China said Friday that the country's exports grew just 1 percent in July from a year earlier while import growth slowed to 4.7 percent. China's booming economy and voracious appetite for commodities has helped oil surge from $10 in 1998.
The Paris-based IEA, meanwhile, said in its monthly oil market report that global oil demand would be lower than previously forecast "due to a combination of persistently high prices and a weak economic backdrop."
The IEA said global oil demand would total 89.6 million barrels a day in 2012 and 90.5 million barrels a day in 2013. In July, the agency's expectations were for demand of 89.9 million barrels a day this year and 90.9 million barrels a day in 2013.
The IEA also said that there "worrying signs" regarding future output. It said Iran will likely continue to weigh on the market, and noted the "risk that recent progress in restoring output from Libya, Iraq and Nigeria could be jeopardized if recent political and civil tensions worsen."
A stronger dollar also contributed to lower prices by making crude more expensive — and a less attractive investment — for traders using other currencies. The euro was down to $1.2266 on Friday from $1.2304 late Thursday.
Despite Friday's retreat, some analysts expect signs of lower U.S. crude supplies and weaker than expected global oil production will push prices higher.
Oil has been supported by "a recent sharp drop in U.S. supply, a continued tight European crude market and reports of slippage in Saudi production," energy trader and consultant Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report. "We are still seeing the possibility of fresh highs across the oil market with crude benchmarks advancing by another couple of dollars."
In other Nymex energy trading, wholesale gasoline futures fell 3.93 cents to $2.9615 a gallon and heating oil lost 3.67 cents to $3.0083. Natural gas shed 9.1 cents at $2.854 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.