Brent crude oil slid toward $103 on Thursday following an unexpected drop in US factory output. The data added to uncertainty about future demand and brought Brent prices down to $103.14 at 9:20 GMT on Thursday morning.

A steep drop in US factory output caused concern among investors who worried about the state of the global economy. Many attributed the lack of demand for exports to the ongoing eurozone recession and sluggish growth in China.

The commodity did find some support from news that showed US stockpiles fell during the week that ended on May 10th. According to Reuters, the Energy Information Administration reported that US crude stockpiles fell by 624,000 barrels, which surprised analysts who had predicted a 300,000 barrel increase. Also lifting Brent prices was geopolitical tension as the ongoing standoff between the West and Iran made its way into the spotlight again.

The United Nations nuclear agency worked with Iranian officials to reopen an investigation into the nation's alleged atomic bomb research, but in the end they were denied. The denial came shortly after Western diplomats and Iranian officials met for talks to try to resolve the conflict over the nation's disputed nuclear program. The talks proved fruitless and the two sides remained at a stalemate. Tension over Iran's uranium enrichment programs has long kept Brent prices above $100 a barrel. Since 2012, fears that the conflict will grow and disrupt supply have lifted the commodity's value. However, analysts believe the risk has already been priced in, and without further escalation the situation won't boost Brent prices

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