Updated: 04/19/2013 13:20 | By Agence France-Presse

Oil prices rise in Asia on OPEC speculation

Oil prices rose in Asia Friday on speculation the OPEC cartel will cut output to stop Brent crude prices -- which remained below $100 a barrel -- from falling further.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May added 37 cents to $88.10 a barrel in the afternoon.

Brent North Sea crude for June delivery gained 41 cents to $99.54 after fal;ling below the $100 threshold earlier in the week following weak economic growth data out of China.

"There are rumours that OPEC may call for an emergency meeting to discuss output if Brent prices stay below $100 a barrel," Ker Chung Yang, senior investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, told AFP.

"This is boosting oil prices in the near term."

Brent prices had hit multi-month lows this week after China said its economy grew just 7.7 percent in the January-March quarter, slower than expected and worse than the previous three months.

Poor figures from the United States added to selling pressure for crude.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) earlier this month kept its global demand forecasts for 2012 and 2013 virtually unchanged, with China expected to contribute the most to growth while industrialised countries appeared to be headed for a decline.

Sanctions-hit Iran, OPEC's fourth largest producer, said on Wednesday that it considers the "logical" price of crude to be around $100-$120 a barrel.

Analysts said the $100 price for Brent is considered ideal by Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, and crossing below it could prompt OPEC to cut back on output.

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