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January 18, 2007 3:15 PM, EST

Oil Dips Below $50 a Barrel for First Time Since May 2005

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Crude oil prices plunged to below $50 a barrel Thursday following a Department of Energy report that showed stronger inventories of crude oil, gasoline and distillates, which include diesel.Oil futures closed at $50.48 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down $1.76 from Wednesday, Bloomberg reported. Futures fell to $49.90 in intraday trading, the lowest level since May 2005.The price is down more than $10 from the beginning of the year, Nymex figures showed.DOE reported in its weekly inventory report Thursday that crude inventories last week rose 6.8 million barrels, gasoline rose 3.5 million and distillates rose about 1 million barrels. The crude levels were well over analysts' expectations, Bloomberg reported.Gasoline and heating-oil futures both also fell following the report, Bloomberg said. Heating-oil prices often parallel diesel in winter months, as both are distillate fuels.