Oil prices eased above $73 a barrel today as data depicted unusually large US crude inventories and persistently weak demand in the world’s top energy consumer.

For March delivery, US crude fell by 22¢ to $73.53 a barrel at 7:15am GMT, while London Brent crude declined by 35¢ to $71.78 a barrel, reports Reuters.

The American Petroleum Institute’s data, which depicted a higher than expected increase in the US crude and gas stocks, counterbalanced yesterday’s gains in oil triggered by the weak dollar.

Despite a severe cold snap, concerns over China tightening its monetary policy and worries about Europe’s financial position, data this year has shown a surprisingly big increase in US inventories, which has affected crude.

Oil prices are still 50% lower than the $147 a barrel reached in July 2008.