Oil prices inched down toward $103 a barrel Wednesday as supply concerns dissipated and investors awaited the release of figures on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined fuels that will be a key indicator of demand.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 11 cents at $103.29 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the Nymex contract fell 13 cents.
Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 15 cents to $108.79 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Reports that Libya's oil production was getting another boost, soon after news that two crude export terminals were close to resume shipments, weighed on market prices.
"El Sharara, the second-largest oilfield in the west of Libya, is now also reopening," analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt wrote in a note to clients. "Libya could thus increase its production volume by more than 800,000 barrels per day even in the near future."
Energy Information Administration data for the week ending July 4 is expected to show declines of 3 million barrels in crude oil stocks and of 1 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Oil has been falling steadily, partly because worries about disruptions to the oil supply from Iraq have subsided. Oil hit a 10-month closing high of $107.26 on June 20.
Gauging demand in coming months from the world's two major economies, the U.S. and China, will be key for energy prices.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline was down 1.48 cents at $2.958 a gallon.
- Natural gas slipped 0.2 cent to $4.202 per 1,000 cubic feet.
- Heating oil fell 0.29 cent to $2.87 a gallon.
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