UPDATE 9-Oil prices end mixed on strong equities; rise in oil stocks

Wed Apr 10, 2013 10:18pm BST

* Gasoline price down more than 2 percent
    * U.S. crude oil stocks highest since 1990 - EIA
    * OPEC echoes U.S. in lowering oil demand forecast
    * China oil imports up in March versus February

 (Updates first paragraph, trading data)
    By Anna Louie Sussman
    NEW YORK, April 10 (Reuters) - Brent crude oil prices fell
on Wednesday, dragged down by a steep sell-off in U.S. gasoline
futures after a U.S. government report showed an unexpected
build in domestic gasoline inventories.
    U.S. RBOB gasoline futures slumped over 2.5 percent,
closing nearly 7 cents lower on the day after losing nearly 9
cents a barrel, and registering the biggest percentage losses in
the oil futures complex. The rise in inventories comes at a time
when demand normally picks up as the warm weather driving season
gets under way.
    A strong U.S. equities market lent oil prices some support.
The S&P 500 rose to a historic high on Wednesday afternoon, led
by technology stocks. 
    U.S. crude oil prices moved independently and rose on the
day, at one point gaining more than 60 cents from Tuesday's
close.
    U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 250,000 barrels to reach
the third-highest level on record for the week ending April 5,
according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information
Administration. The rise was less than the 1.4 million barrels
forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.  
    "People in today's trade are not just selling a few
contracts of gas, they're also selling the gas crack spread,
selling RBOB and buying U.S. crude against it," said Timothy
Evans, an energy analyst at Citi Futures Perspective in New
York. 
    The U.S. government's inventory data arrived after OPEC
trimmed its forecast for global demand growth on Wednesday,
echoing similarly low demand expectations cited earlier this
week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its
monthly outlook.
    "We have more than ample supplies of oil on hand, so we
don't have real support for rising prices from that factor,"
said Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy in
Connecticut. 
    Brent May crude settled down 44 cents at $105.79 a
barrel, having retreated from a session high of $106.47. Brent's
May contract expires on Monday.
    U.S. May crude settled up 44 cents at $94.64 a
barrel, having swung from $93.40 to $94.82.
    Trading volumes for both Brent and U.S. crude oil were below
their 30-day moving averages. 
    U.S. May gasoline settled down more than 7.5 cents at
$2.865 a gallon, going below the 100- and 200-day moving
averages, technical levels monitored by chart watching traders.
    Trading volume for RBOB gasoline futures was 3 percent above
its 30-day moving average.
    U.S. May heating oil slipped just above 1 cent.
    The decline in the price of Brent crude oil was curbed by
data showing China imported more oil in March than February, the
ongoing dispute over Iran's nuclear program and tensions on the
Korean peninsula.
    
    U.S. OIL INVENTORIES    
    The rise in U.S. crude stocks brought bulging commercial
inventories to more than 388 million barrels, the highest since
July 1990. 
    The inventory rise was less than the expected build of 1.4
million barrels in a Reuters survey of analysts, but still left
stockpiles 26.2 million barrels above the same period in 2012.
    Gasoline stocks rose 1.7 million barrels last week, the EIA
said, counter to expectations that stocks would be lower as is
typically the case in spring. Inventories on the East Coast,
which includes the New York Harbor, delivery point for the U.S.
futures contract, jumped 1.5 million barrels. 
    U.S. distillate stocks fell last week, but only by 165,000
barrels, significantly less than the anticipated drop of 1.3
million barrels.
    
 
    
    CHINA OIL IMPORTS PICK UP
    China imports of key commodities rebounded in March from the
previous month. 
    Crude oil imports rose only 0.2 percent in March from
February, a much more modest month-on-month increase than the
7.2 percent jump in copper imports or the 14.4 percent rise for
iron ore.
    Less bullish were figures showing crude imports fell 2.1
percent in March versus the year ago period.

 (Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons in New York, Peg Mackey
in London and Ramya Venugopal in Chennai, India; Editing by
Grant McCool and Andre Grenon)