Oil prices fall as U.S. supplies grow
WASHINGTON – Crude oil futures fell Wednesday after U.S. government data showed a large increase in supplies last week.Light sweet crude for April delivery dropped 93 cents to settle at $62.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On the ICE Futures exchange in London, Brent crude slipped 47 cents to $63.50.Oil futures are higher in Europe in large part because of an output disruption in Nigeria that has forced buyers to seek alternative supplies, said oil broker Andrew Lebow of Man Financial in New York. Indeed, strong global demand, a tight supply cushion and geopolitical tensions continue to support prices, which are roughly 13 percent higher than a year ago.In its weekly supply report, the Energy Department said crude oil inventories rose by 4.8 million barrels last week to 339.9 million barrels, or 10 percent above year ago levels.However, supplies of refined products fell. Gasoline inventories fell by 900,000 barrels to 223.9 million barrels, or less than one percent above year ago levels. Stocks of distillate fuel, which include diesel and heating oil, shrank by 3.9 million barrels to 127.5 million barrels, or 13 percent higher than a year ago.Refiners are in the midst of the turnaround season when they shut down their plants to perform maintenance ahead of summer, which is traditionally the busiest period for gasoline production. It often causes supplies to tighten and prices to rise.Nymex gasoline futures fell 3.69 cents to close at $1.8291 per gallon. On Tuesday, gasoline futures rallied 12.27 cents after Amerada Hess Corp. said that over the weekend it shut a gasoline producing unit at a large refinery in St. Croix. The company said repairs to the unit, which refines roughly 150,000 barrels of crude per day, could take up to two weeks.Nymex heating oil futures slipped 3.95 cents to finish at $1.7817 a gallon, while natural gas futures fell 2.4 cents to settle at $7.143 per 1,000 cubic feet.On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency, a watchdog for the world’s energy consumers, lowered its 2006 oil demand estimate by 290,000 barrels per day. The IEA attributed the lessened forecast demand to persistently high fuel prices and slowing consumption in Southeast Asia.Vail, Colorado
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