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Middle East Unrest Raises Oil Prices

Buildings at the entrance to a security forces compound are seen burning in Benghazi, Libya, February 21 2011

Growing concern over violence in Libya has sent oil prices soaring and contributing to a decline in world stock markets.

Some major foreign oil companies are evacuating families and staff from Libya, and some firms are curtailing operations.

Libya exports about 2 percent of the oil the world uses each day, and supplies natural gas to European nations.

Investors are worried that unrest in Libya and other oil producing nations could cut energy supplies, and they are sharply bidding up the price of crude oil. The London price of Brent crude, which is a benchmark for much of the world, has hit a two-year high above $107. Oil prices surged about 8 percent Tuesday on the New York market rising to more than $93 a barrel.

Economists say higher oil prices could slow economic growth just as the world is recovering from the worst recession in decades.

Higher energy costs raise the price of all kinds of goods, which increases the threat of inflation. Inflation can damage the economy, but fighting inflation by raising interest rates can also cause problems by slowing economic growth.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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