Oil prices fell to near $78 a barrel on Wednesday in Asia after U.S. crude supplies unexpectedly rose, suggesting demand in the world’s largest economy remains weak.
Benchmark crude for January delivery was down by 30 cents to $78.07 at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The contract rose $1.09 to settle at $78.37 on Monday. U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly fell last week, the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday.
Crude stocks rose 2.9 million barrels while analysts had expected a drop of 1.3 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. The Energy Information Administration plans to announce its inventory report later on Wednesday.
Oil prices broke below $76 a barrel late last week after conglomerate Dubai World said ,it would delay interest payments on $60 billion of debt.
But prices quickly recovered this week as investors were encouraged by signs of improving crude demand in Asia. Crude has traded between $75 a barrel and $82 for more than a month. “Prices should continue to be rangebound,” Societe Generale said in a report.
“However, there is a solid floor.” In other Nymex trading, natural gas shed 15.9 cents to $4.689 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil rose 1.57 cents to $2.0636 and gasoline gained 1.33 cents to settle at $2.0248.
In London, Brent crude for January delivery fell 18 cents to $79.17 on the ICE Futures exchange.