Oil Prices Fall As Weekly Crude Supplies Jumpa

Crude-oil futures fell in electronic trading Wednesday, with a jump in weekly crude supplies adding to concerns about already high inventory levels.

Crude oil for May delivery  fell 29 cents, or 0.3%, to $93.91 a barrel in Asian trading hours.

Crude futures on Tuesday rose 84 cents, or 0.9%, to $94.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, in part due to oil-market concerns that a magnitude-6.3 earthquake in Iran would affect Iranian crude production.

But oil’s gain was cut after the release of a report late Tuesday showing that crude-oil supplies rose much more than forecast for the week ended April 5. U.S. crude stockpiles have remained high recently, and the market is entering a weak demand season, both in the U.S. and overseas.

Crude supplies were up 5.1 million barrels in the last week, according to data from the American Petroleum Institute. Analysts surveyed by Platts had expected an increase of just 1.4 million barrels. Also, total stocks for the week ended March 29 were upwardly revised by more than 500,000 barrels.

There had been worries that Exxon Mobil Corp.’s  shutdown of the Pegasus pipeline would cause a big back-up at Cushing, Okla., the delivery point for crude oil used for Nymex-traded futures.

The API also said gasoline stockpiles last week unexpectedly rose to 1.96 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles fell by 1.3 million barrels. Both compared with analyst forecasts for declines of 1.8 million barrels.

The more closely watched U.S. Energy Information Administration report was due out Wednesday. Oil reports from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the Paris-based International Energy Agency were also expected on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

Meanwhile, preliminary Chinese data released Wednesday showed the world’s second-largest economy imported 23.05 million metric tons of crude oil in March, equivalent to 5.45 million barrels a day.

Imports were down 2.1% from the 23.55 million tons of crude shipped in the year-ago period, and up about 10.9% from 20.78 million tons in February, according to calculations by Dow Jones Newswires.

Among other energy futures, May Brent crude  on Wednesday traded up 15 cents, or 0.1%, at $106.38 a barrel, slightly extending Tuesday’s jump of 1.5%.

Gasoline for May delivery  shed 1 cent, or 0.5%, to trade at $2.93 a gallon, and May heating oil  was unchanged at $2.96 a gallon.

May natural gas tacked on 1 cent, or 0.3%, to $4.03 per million British thermal units.