NEW YORK — Oil prices fell sharply on deepening fears about Japan’s economy.
Investors worried about diminished demand for oil and other products in Japan, the world’s third-largest oil importer. However, Wall Street analysts expect that Japan will eventually increase imports of oil, coal, and natural gas.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery dropped $4.01, or 4 percent, to settle at $97.18 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude fell $5.15, or 4.5 percent, to settle at $108.52 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
The uncertainty over how long it could take Japan to recover triggered a sell-off in other commodities as well, as stock markets fell around the world.
Gasoline pump prices across the United States fell slightly for the first time in nearly a month to a national average of $3.556.