By Anna Louie Sussman
NEW YORK, April 10 (Reuters) - Brent crude oil prices fell
on Wednesday as a report of rising U.S. crude oil and gasoline
inventories reinforced concerns about the outlook for oil demand
in the world's top petroleum consumer.
U.S. RBOB gasoline futures slumped 2.75 percent,
registering the biggest percentage losses in the oil futures
complex on an unexpectedly high rise in inventories just as
demand normally picks up when the warm weather driving season
A strong U.S. equities market lent oil prices some support.
The S&P 500 rose to a historic high on Wednesday afternoon, led
by technology stocks.
U.S. crude oil rose, at one point gaining more than 60
cents, as traders exploited the so-called 'crack spread,' or the
differential in pricing between crude oil and the products that
come from cracking it open during the refining process.
'People in today's trade are not just selling a few
contracts of gas, they're also selling the gas crack spread,
selling RBOB and buying U.S. crude against it,' said Timothy
Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New
The U.S. government's inventory data arrived after OPEC on
Wednesday trimmed its forecast for global demand growth, echoing
similarly low demand expectations cited earlier this week by the
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its monthly
'We have more than ample supplies of oil on hand, so we
don't have real support for rising prices from that factor,'
said Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy in
The decline in the price of Brent crude oil was curbed by
data showing China imported more oil in March than February, the
ongoing dispute over Iran's nuclear program and tensions on the
Brent May crude fell 52 cents to $105.71 a barrel at
2:33 p.m. EDT (1833 GMT), having retreated after reaching
$106.47. Brent's May contract expires on Monday.
U.S. May crude setted up 44 cents at $94.64 a barrel,
having swung from $93.40 to $94.82.
U.S. May gasoline settled down more than 7.5 cents at
$2.865 a gallon, going below the 100- and 200-day moving
averages, technical levels monitored by chart watching traders.
U.S. May heating oil slipped just above 1 cent.
U.S. OIL INVENTORIES
U.S. crude stocks rose 250,000 barrels last week, the EIA's
weekly report on Wednesday showed, keeping bulging commercial
inventories at more than 388 million barrels, the highest level
since July 1990.
The inventory rise was less than the expected build of 1.4
million barrels in a Reuters survey of analysts, but still left
stockpiles 26.2 million barrels above the same period in 2012.
Gasoline stocks rose 1.7 million barrels last week, the EIA
said, counter to expectations stocks would be lower, and
inventories on the East Coast, which includes the New York
Harbor, delivery point for the U.S. futures contract, jumped 1.5
U.S. distillate stocks fell last week, but only by 165,000
barrels, significantly less than the drop of 1.3 million barrels
CHINA OIL IMPORTS PICK UP
China imports of key commodities rebounded in March from the
Crude oil imports rose only 0.2 percent in March from
February, a much more modest month-on-month increase than the
7.2 percent jump in copper imports or the 14.4 percent rise for
Less bullish were figures showing crude imports fell 2.1
percent in March versus the year ago period.
(Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons in New York, Peg Mackey
in London and Ramya Venugopal in Chennai, India; Editing by
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