LONDON - Oil prices fell on Tuesday as traders booked profits following a strong start to the week.

New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, shed 80 cents to $104.43 a barrel. Brent North Sea crude for May lost 92 cents at $124.51 in London midday deals.

Prices had surged in late trade on Monday after stronger-than-expected industrial data in the United States, which is the world’s biggest oil user. “There has been some profit-taking... from the price surge brought on by US manufacturing data,” said Victor Shum, an analyst at energy consultants Purvin and Gertz.

Crude futures jumped more than two dollars on Monday following the US data, which offset weaker figures in Europe. “The manufacturing data that came out from Europe were quite weak, and that has offset the US data and is weighing on prices,” Singapore-based Shum told AFP.

Despite the strong US numbers, Barclays Capital analyst said “US macroeconomic data continue to remain at odds with the oil demand data, which remains weak and fails to show the improvement seen in the economy over the past few months.” 

She added: “In fact, coinciding with the improvement in the economic backdrop since November, US oil demand has taken a turn for the worse, with warm weather aggravating the declines.”