Oil falls to near $82 after 2-day rally

SINGAPORE: Oil prices fell toward $82 a barrel Thursday in Asia, paring two days of gains that were fueled by signs U.S. crude demand may be improving.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was down 50 cents to $82.43 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.23 to settle at $82.93 on Wednesday.

Oil had risen more than $3 the previous two days, helped higher by a larger-than-expected drop in gasoline and distillates inventories last week and a smaller-than-expected increase in crude supplies, according to Energy Information Agency data released Wednesday.

The 12-nation Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which accounts for about 40 percent of global crude output, said Wednesday at a quarterly meeting in Vienna that it would maintain the group's production quotas.

"OPEC ministers are fairly relaxed with the situation right now and are comfortable to float along with the positive and improving data flow," Barclays Capital said in a report.

In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil fell 1.41 cents to $2.125 a gallon, and gasoline dropped 1.26 cents to $2.297 a gallon. Natural gas slid 3.3 cents to $4.27 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was down 48 cents at $81.48 on the ICE futures exchange.