SINGAPORE (AP) - Oil prices fell to below $104 a barrel Wednesday in Asia after a report showed a larger than expected U.S. crude supply jump, suggesting demand may remain weak.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 48 cents to $103.53 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.22 to settle at $104.01 per barrel in New York on Tuesday.
Brent crude for May delivery was down 20 cents at $124.66 per barrel in London.
The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories rose 7.8 million barrels last week while analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had predicted an increase of 1.9 million barrels.
Inventories of gasoline fell 4.5 million barrels last week while distillates tumbled 1.4 million barrels, the API said.
The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reports its weekly supply data later Wednesday.
On Tuesday, minutes from a Federal Reserve meeting last month showed the Fed is more optimistic about the U.S. economy than previous public statements, a sign investors took to suggest further monetary stimulus measures to boost economic growth were less likely.
Investors will also be closely watching the latest U.S. employment data over the next three days, culminating in Friday's March jobs report. The global oil market will be closed Friday for the Good Friday holiday.
In other energy trading, heating oil was steady at $3.23 per gallon and gasoline futures added 0.9 cents at $3.40 per gallon. Natural gas fell 0.3 cents at $2.18 per 1,000 cubic feet.