SINGAPORE, Mar 22 (AFP): Oil prices were easier in Asian trade today on expectations strong US inventory figures due out later in the day will dampen prices further, dealers said.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, was down 10 cents to 62.24 dollars a barrel from its close of 62.34 dollars in the United States on Tuesday.
April's main contract expired Tuesday, closing in New York at 60.57 dollars.
"I think people are expecting more builds in inventories. The market is really focusing on the short-term inventories which you can't deny are very high," said Tonney Nunan, a Tokyo-based energy risk manager for Mitsubishi Corp.
The US Department of Energy (DoE), due to release its weekly inventory report later Wednesday, was expected to reveal another large jump in reserves.
US crude inventories rose 4.8 million barrels in the week to March 10 to stand at 339.9 million-the highest level since April 1999.
Despite the record crude levels, Sucden analysts said the market focus remains on gasoline (petrol) stocks, with concerns that supplies are not going to be enough ahead of the traditioinal US summer driving season.
London analysts expect gasoline stocks to have fallen by 1.2 million barrels last week. Distillates, including heating fuel and diesel, are forecast to have dipped by 2.2 million barrels.
However, despite abundant crude supplies in the US, persistent concerns over the global outlook continue to support prices.