NEW YORK — The price of oil fell near $97 a barrel Wednesday after a government report showed an increase in U.S. crude supplies.
Benchmark oil for March delivery dropped 50 cents to finish at $97.01 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Crude supplies increased by 600,000 barrels, or 0.2 percent, to 696 million barrels, which is 9.8 percent above year-ago levels, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report.
Analysts expected an increase of 2.5 million barrels for the week ended Feb. 8, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Traders may have been disappointed that supplies rose at all after a report late Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute showed a drop of 2.3 million barrels in U.S. crude stockpiles last week. The API relies on voluntary reports from distributors and pipeline operators, while submissions for the government's report are mandatory.
Earlier, the Paris-based International Energy Agency lowered its consumption expectations by 85,000 barrels a day compared with data from a month ago. Despite the downward revision, the IEA still expects the world to use 90.7 million barrels of crude oil a day this year, or 1 million barrels a day more than OPEC's estimate, released Tuesday, of 89.7 million barrels a day.
Drivers in some parts of the U.S. are paying more at the pump, as the national average for a gallon of regular rose to $3.62 on Wednesday, according to AAA. That's up 2 cents from Tuesday and 31 cents more than a month ago. The highest prices are in California, the Northeast and the Midwest.
Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 6 cents to end at $118.72 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
_ Wholesale gasoline fell 1 cent to finish at $3.04 a gallon.
_ Natural gas rose 8 cents to end at $3.31 per 1,000 cubic feet.
_ Heating oil fell 2 cents to finish at $3.22 a gallon.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.