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Oil falls as supplies expected to increase

BANGKOK (AP) — The price of oil fell Wednesday ahead of the release of a report expected to show crude supplies still burgeoning.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was down 32 cents to $96.88 a barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 12 cents to finish at $97.19 on Monday, buoyed by strong reports on U.S. auto sales and factory orders.

The market is watching for the latest reports on supplies of oil and petroleum products. Analysts expect oil supplies rose by 2.5 million barrels last week, according to Platts.

Supplies are already more than 9 percent above year-ago levels, a figure that is hard to ignore no matter how rosy economic data out of the U.S. might look.

"My view is that the price has got itself in a situation where it is vulnerable to being sold off, where everybody knows its value, given current demand and supply," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney. "The market sort of has more scope to move down in the event of bad news than to move up in the event of good news."

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was down 39 cents to $110.30 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.1 cents to $3.03 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.7 cent to $3.081 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 0.2 cent to $3.967 per 1,000 cubic feet.