Oil falls as report shows rise in US crude stocks

NEW YORK – The price of oil fell near $97 a barrel Wednesday after a government report showed an increase in U.S. crude supplies.

Benchmark oil for March delivery dropped 50 cents to finish at $97.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude supplies increased by 600,000 barrels, or 0.2 percent, to 696 million barrels, which is 9.8 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.

Analysts expected an increase of 2.5 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 8, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Traders may have been disappointed that supplies rose at all after a report late Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute showed a drop of 2.3 million barrels in U.S. crude stockpiles last week. The API relies on voluntary reports from distributors and pipeline operators, while submissions for the government’s report are mandatory.

Earlier, the Paris-based International Energy Agency lowered its consumption expectations by 85,000 barrels a day compared with data from a month ago.