NEW YORK (AFP) - Global oil prices slipped on Thursday as US distillate stocks fell less than expected despite severe winter weather and weak manufacturing data dented demand expectations in China.
The main US futures contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for March, closed at US$102.92 (S$130.27) a barrel, down 39 cents from Wednesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April, shed 17 cents to settle at US$110.30 a barrel in London trade.
The US Department of Energy's weekly oil inventories report was "slightly bearish," said John Kilduff of Again Capital.
US commercial crude inventories rose by 1.0 million barrels in the week ending February 14, less than the 1.8 million expected by analysts.
But US distillates reserves, which include diesel and heating fuel, fell by only 300,000 barrels instead of the 1.9 million barrel estimate. Traders were closely watching heating fuel supplies as a series of winter storms and cold grips large parts of the country.
Gasoline supplies meanwhile rose 300,000 barrels last week.
"Distillate products and heating fuel are going to start to lose their ability to support the crude complex" as winter draws to a close, said Kilduff.
Oil prices also were pressured by a report showing Chinese manufacturing contracted for a second consecutive month in February.
HSBC's preliminary reading for its purchasing managers' index for China fell to 48.3, a seven-month low, after slipping to 49.5 in January. A number below 50 indicates contraction.
"Weak China manufacturing data is cooling off a red hot petroleum complex," said Phil Flynn of Price Futures Group.
"More cracks in the emerging market may temper the markets' gains," Mr Flynn warned.