Investing.com - West Texas Intermediate oil futures traded below the $100-level for the first time since May on Tuesday, as market players assessed demand prospects from the U.S. and the supply outlook in the Middle East.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for delivery in August fell to a session low of $99.55 a barrel, the weakest level since May 6, before trimming losses to last trade at $99.65 during U.S. morning hours, down 1.25%, or $1.26.
New York-traded oil futures were likely to find support at $99.32 a barrel, the low from May 6 and resistance at $101.20 a barrel, the high from July 14.
The U.S. Commerce Department said earlier that retail sales inched up by a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in June, missing expectations for a 0.6% increase.
Core retail sales, which exclude automobile sales, eased up by a seasonally adjusted 0.4% in June, disappointing forecasts for a 0.5% increase.
At the same time, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said that its general business conditions index increased to a more than four-year high of 25.6 in July from a reading of 19.3 in June. Analysts had expected the index to decline to 17.0 this month.
Meanwhile, markets were jittery ahead of highly anticipated comments by Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for signs of when the central bank would begin increasing interest rates.
In the minutes of the Fed''s June policy meeting released last week, the Fed predicted an October close to its bond-buying stimulus program but did not hint at a timetable as to when interest rates may begin to rise afterwards.
Oil traders also awaited key U.S. weekly supply data to gauge the strength of oil demand from the world’s largest consumer.
The American Petroleum Institute will release its inventories report later in the day, while Wednesday’s government report could show crude stockpiles fell by 2 million barrels in the week ended July 11.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for September delivery tumbled 1.43%, or $1.53, to trade at $106.18 a barrel, as investors continued to monitor geopolitical developments in Libya and Iraq.