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PLAYA BAGDAD Mexico (Reuters) - Alex strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday and was due to hit the Mexican coast in a few hours, but it stayed clear of oil fields to the relief of crude markets.

The hurricane hampered efforts to control the massive BP Plc oil spill off the Louisiana coast, and its winds of nearly 100 mph bent over palm trees and lashed the port city of Matamoros across from Brownsville, Texas.

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