The price of oil dropped below $101 a barrel Tuesday on expectations U.S. crude stocks rose last week.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 3 cents to $101.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the Nymex contract fell $1.46 to close at $101.12 after China reported a steep drop in exports in February.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was up 33 cents at $108.41 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Investors are awaiting fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products.
Data for the week ending March 7 is expected to show a build of 2.3 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 1.8 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration -- the market benchmark -- will be out on Wednesday.
Last week, oil was pushed higher by Russia's military incursion into the Crimean peninsula, a largely Russian-speaking region of Ukraine. Russia is one of the world's major producers of oil and there were concerns of an escalation in economic sanctions between the West and Russia. Europe and the U.S. have so far promised a limited form of sanctions.
Russia has said it is drafting counterproposals to a U.S. plan for a negotiated solution to the crisis, denouncing the new Western-backed government in the Ukraine as unacceptable. Russian forces are strengthening their control over Crimea and the peninsula's parliament voted Tuesday to declare independence if its residents agree in a referendum to split off from Ukraine and join Russia.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline was up 0.38 cent at $2.9532 a gallon.
- Heating oil was down 0.27 cent at $2.9647 a gallon.
- Natural gas lost 3.5 cents to $4.616 per 1,000 cubic feet.