Oil Hovers Below $101 Ahead Of US Supply Data

Published February 14, 2012 9:45AM (EST)

SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices hovered below $101 a barrel Tuesday in Asia ahead of U.S. crude supply figures that will provide clues about the strength of demand.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 1 cent at $100.92 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $2.24 to settle at $100.91 on Monday.

Brent crude was down 50 cents at $117.33 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.

Oil has hovered near $100 for several months amid signs the U.S. economy is improving. However, crude supplies have been rising, suggesting demand remains weak.

The oil market will be closely watching the latest inventory data when the American Petroleum Institute reports later Tuesday and the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration announces its weekly supply data Wednesday.

Analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., predict crude inventories rose 1.9 million barrels last week.

Some analysts are concerned that rising U.S. gasoline prices, which hit a five-month high last week, could undermine consumer spending and economic growth.

"These price increases come at a difficult time for the economy," energy consultant Cameron Hanover said in a report. "Jobs are just starting to come back and housing is starting to breathe its first breaths of life in years, and gasoline prices are back at it, ready to scuttle economic recovery through a pervasive tax that catches everyone."

In other energy trading, heating oil was steady at $3.16 per gallon and gasoline futures slid 0.7 cent to $3.01 per gallon. Natural gas gained 1.9 cents to $2.45 per 1,000 cubic feet.

By Salon Staff

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