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AAP

January 22 2013, 04:45AM

Markets Energy

LONDON, Jan 21 AFP - Oil prices have fallen as investors banked profits following gains last week driven by encouraging economic data from the United States and China, and the hostage killings in Algeria, traders say.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in March dropped 41 cents to $US111.48 in late London trading on Monday.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February, shed 42 cents to $US95.14 a barrel in electronic deals, with US physical markets closed for a public holiday in the world's biggest economy and oil consumer.

"The current week promises to be fairly volatile, with a lot of attention on temperatures in Europe amid the ongoing cold snap, while players in the US will be absent on Monday owing to a public holiday," said Andrey Kryuchenkov, analyst at VTB Capital financial group.

Crude futures had risen last week, supported by the deadly violence in energy exporter Algeria, better-than-expected Chinese economic data and signs of improving crude demand in the United States, traders said.

China on Friday said that although economic growth slowed for the second year running in 2012, output climbed by 7.9 per cent in the fourth quarter compared with output in the year-earlier period.

The report came on the heels of unexpectedly strong US data on jobless claims and housing starts.

Prices had also won support last week on the seizure by radical Islamists of a gas plant in the Algerian desert that resulted in the deaths of foreign workers.

Algeria is a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and there were fears of oil supply disruptions.

However, the crisis came to a bloody end at the weekend in a showdown between the extremists and Algerian troops.