Tokyo - Oil prices eased in Asian trade on Tuesday as caution set into the market ahead of the release of US economic and stockpiles data, analysts said.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, fell 40 cents to $102.42 in mid-morning trade.
Brent North Sea crude for April was down 15 cents to $110.49.
“Lack of strong supportive news contributed to some downside in crude oil,” Tan Chee Tat, investment analyst at Singapore-based Phillip Futures, told AFP.
Tan said Asian investors were wary that they could be in an “overbought situation” as the winter season in the West wanes and demand dips.
Prices could also come under pressure as stockpiles begin to surge due to the upcoming summer maintenance season in United States and North Sea refineries, Tan said.
Traders are expecting the latest US stockpiles data Wednesday to show a dip at the Cushing, Oklahoma, depot as the return of cold weather in large parts of the country boosts current demand for heating oil.
US housing data to be released later on Tuesday will be closely watched “as markets looks towards assessing how much is weather a factor in stalling the US housing recovery in recent months”, Singapore's United Overseas Bank said in a note.
Analysts are also closely monitoring potential supply disruptions in several crisis-hit oil-producing countries including Venezuela, Libya and South Sudan.
Ukraine, a major energy consumer, is also in focus after the dramatic ousting of its pro-Russian president and its appeal for $35 billion in Western aid to stave off an economic meltdown.