World oil prices declined below $54 a barrel Friday after hitting records above $58 early this week.

The easing of prices follows a U.S. government report on Wednesday showing an increasing supply of crude oil in the U.S. market, and growing refinery operations to turn out gasoline.

While prices have dropped, they are still about 44 percent higher than they were a year ago.

Most economists surveyed by the Bloomberg financial news service say high oil prices and rising interest rates will slow U.S. economic growth later this year.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and AP.