The price of oil slipped further below $102 a barrel Wednesday as traders awaited weekly data that are expected to show rising U.S. crude stockpiles.
By early afternoon in Europe, U.S. crude for May delivery was down 22 cents to $101.53 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the Nymex contract fell $1.90 to settle at $101.75.
Brent crude, an international benchmark for oil, was up 3 cents to $109.30 on the ICE Futures exchange in London. The American Petroleum Industry reported late Tuesday that U.S. stockpiles of crude rose 519,000 barrels last week. That was below the increase of 3.1 million barrels expected by analysts polled by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., but comes after a jump of 10 million barrels registered the previous week.
The report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out later Wednesday. Analysts at JBC Energy in Vienna said "exceptionally high stock levels in the U.S., coupled with the expected increase in domestic output as winter months are behind us, seem to have finally started taking their toll on" the Nymex contract.
Lending some support to prices were continued tensions in Ukraine — where the acting president ordered security forces to resume operations in the country's east against pro-Russian insurgents demanding closer ties with Russia — and Libya's inability to normalize its oil exports.
"The agreement reached three weeks ago between the government and rebels in Libya appears to be hanging in the balance," analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt said in a note to clients. "It had envisaged a gradual opening of the oil terminals occupied by the rebels."
In other energy futures trading in New York: — Wholesale gasoline was down 0.02 cent at $3.0448 a gallon. —Heating oil fell 0.04 cent to $2.9951 a gallon. — Natural gas added 3.4 cents to $4.773 per 1,000 cubic feet.