Oil price below $99 on new Europe debt concerns

By CHRIS KAHN | January 13, 2012 | 11:20 AM EST

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices are lower Friday on fresh concerns about Europe's economy.

Benchmark crude fell 39 cents to $98.71 per barrel in New York. Brent crude fell 20 cents to $110.85 per barrel in London.

Prices dipped on reports that credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's will downgrade France and Austria. The Financial Times reported that those countries would be dropped from triple-A to AA+.

A downgrade could make it harder for the European Union to raise money and overcome massive government debts. A recession already is expected in the eurozone, and huge spending cuts will likely cut European energy demand this year.

In the U.S., gasoline pump prices rose 1 cent to a national average of $3.39 per gallon.