Oil prices fell below $82 a barrel today on expectations that OPEC members would keep pumping crude above quotas in the second quarter.

For April, US crude dropped 46¢ to $81.63 a barrel by 12am EST, while London ICE April Brent fell 47¢ to $80.01, reports Reuters.

A Reuters poll showed that OPEC is likely to keep oil production targets on hold when it meets in Vienna on 17 March, but it may raise output later this year as the global economy recovers, pushing up demand for fuel.

Falling fuel inventories in the USA and the first few weekly gains in total demand in one-and-a-half years has supported the view that the market will consume supplies from OPEC as Chinese imports increase.

According to the Energy Information Administration, US crude inventories showed a 1.4 million barrel gain to 343 million barrels in the week ending March 5, while petrol stockpiles showed a fall of 2.9 million barrels to 229 million barrels.