Oil edges lower as markets await U.S. inventories data

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Oil prices edged lower in Asia on Wednesday as market players tried to assess U.S. demand with the approach of warmer weather.

Anticipation of a buildup in U.S. crude inventories also helped send prices lower. Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 11 cents to US$101.74 a barrel at 1:50 a.m. ET in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 99 cents to close Tuesday at $101.83.

Investors are waiting for a weekly fuel inventories report from the U.S. Energy Department for clues about the strength of demand. It is due later Wednesday.

An especially harsh U.S. winter this year has boosted energy demand but that impulse will fade as warmer weather starts to prevail.

The world has already grown jittery lately about a possible economic slowdown in China. The economy is still expanding at faster rates than Western nations but may be losing momentum, which would have significant effect on energy demand.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 16 cents to $109.35 on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was almost unchanged at $2.97 per gallon.

— Heating was also little changed at $3.031 a gallon.

— Natural gas lost 13.8 cents to $4.958 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(TSX:ECA, TSX:IMO, TSX:SU, TSX:HSE, NYSE:BP, NYSE:COP, NYSE:XOM, NYSE:CVX, TSX:CNQ, TSX:TLM, TSX:COS.UN, TSX:CVE)

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