Oil Price Drops Below $97 a Barrel

By CHRIS KAHN | December 14, 2011 | 10:20 AM EST

FILE - In this Nov. 23, 2011 file photo, motorists head south toward Los Angeles on Interstate 15 just across the Nevada state line near Primm, Nev. The average price for a gallon of gas has fallen 7 cents in just a week to $3.31. The discount is 13 cents in the past month. That's because, holiday shopping aside, motorists tend to drive less in the colder months. And refiners are making cheaper winter blends of gas at this time of year. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A weak euro is pulling oil prices down to their lowest level this month.

Benchmark crude on Wednesday fell $3.35, or 3.4 percent, to $96.79 per barrel in New York. Brent crude lost $2.59, or 2.5 percent, to $106.43 in London.

Oil tumbled as the euro dropped to the lowest level against the dollar in 11 months on fading optimism about a European Union plan to deal with the region's debt crisis.

When the euro falls, it lifts the value of the dollar. Oil is priced in dollars, and it becomes more expensive — and less attractive of an investment for foreign buyers — as the dollar rises.

Retail gasoline prices slipped half a cent to a national average of $3.264 per gallon.