01/13/2012 11:39 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Oil price below US$99 on possible credit downgrades for France and Austria

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Oil prices fell Friday on fresh concerns about the future of Europe's economy.

Benchmark crude fell by 84 cents to US$98.26 per barrel in New York during the early afternoon.

Prices dipped on reports that credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's will downgrade France and Austria. The Financial Times reported that those countries will drop a notch 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.