NEW YORK, N.Y. – The price of oil fell Wednesday as a drop in metals commodities overflowed to crude markets and U.S. stocks retreated from five-year highs.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery lost $1.88, or two per cent, to finish at US$95.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The March contract, which expires Wednesday, fell $2.20 to end at US$94.46 per barrel.

Brent crude, used to price many international varieties of oil imported by U.S. refineries, fell $1.92 to finish at US$115.60 a barrel in London.

Gold and other precious metals tumbled in Wednesday trading, and oil was dragged down by the commodities sell-off. Gold was down about $26, around two per cent, to $1,578 an ounce. Silver and platinum lost about three per cent.

The stock market backed off Wednesday as well, with the major indexes lower after minutes from the last Fed meeting showed some concern about the risk in the central bank’s bond-buying stimulus policy.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts slowed in January from December, although applications for building permits continued to rise, pointing to more recovery for the housing market this year.

Many analysts expected the decline in January starts after a sharp rise in December, and most of the drop came in apartment construction. Single-family home starts were slightly higher last month.

Oil prices were undercut by analysts’ expectations for higher U.S. crude supplies when the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration releases its weekly inventory report on Thursday. Analysts on average forecast a rise of two million barrels, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, heating oil fell two cents to end at US$3.16 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), wholesale gasoline fell six cents to finish at US$3.06 a gallon and natural gas rose one cent to end at US$3.28 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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