Oil hovers below $82 amid US crude inventory drop

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SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices hovered below $82 a barrel Wednesday in Asia after a report showed U.S. crude supplies fell more than expected last week.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 1 cent to $81.78 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the contract rose 26 cents to settle at $81.77 a barrel, a 14-month high.

Traders closely study U.S. inventory data for signs of consumer demand trends, and crude supplies fell 2.3 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday.

Analysts had expected a drop of 1.6 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration plans to announce its inventory report later Wednesday.

Oil has surged about 15 percent since mid-December as colder weather in the U.S. boosts demand for crude products such as heating oil.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil fell 0.52 cent to $2.19 a gallon and gasoline slid 1.20 cents to $2.11 a gallon. Natural gas futures rose 4.8 cents to $5.69.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery rose 5 cents to $80.64 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.