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Oil prices fall to lowest level in weeks

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices fell sharply Tuesday on deepening fears about Japan’s economy after its nuclear crisis worsened following a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Potentially dangerous levels of radiation have been reported leaking from a crippled nuclear complex in the disaster area. More than 10,000 people are thought to have died after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on Friday.

Investors worried about diminished demand for oil and other products in Japan, the world’s third-largest oil importer. However, Wall Street analysts expect that Japan will eventually increase imports of oil, coal and natural gas.

The uncertainty over how long it could take Japan to recover triggered a sell-off in other commodities as well, as stocks markets fell around the world. Many investors bought assets considered to be safer to hold during uncertain economic times, such as the dollar.

Gasoline pump prices across the U.S. fell slightly Tuesday for the first time in nearly a month to a national average of $3.556 per gallon. Prices are still higher than ever for this time of year. A gallon of regular is 42.8 cents more expensive than a month ago and 76.6 cents higher than last year.

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