Some oil investors take profit ahead of data

Oil prices Tuesday retreated as investors took profits ahead of a hectic stretch of economic news that could move markets more significantly.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate tumbled $1.47 to close at $103.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

European benchmark Brent oil for September delivery dropped 54 cents to $106.91 a barrel.

Analysts said recent trade data had shown a sharp increase in the number of "long" bets in crude, wagers that oil prices would go higher. Given that dynamic, it was time for some investors to sell back, at least until the economic signals are clearer.

"Some money is coming off the table," said Carl Larry of Oil Outlook and Opinions. Larry predicted "risk-off" trades "until we get a better picture of where we're going in terms of economic numbers."

Many investors saw a good opportunity to take profits given that oil prices have risen for much of the last month or so.

Markets will get some major data points in the coming days, including second-quarter gross domestic product growth and the conclusion of a Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting, both on Wednesday, and the monthly US jobs report Friday.

"The market was really long," said Andy Lebow, senior vice president at Jefferies Bache. "There's no major (energy) fundamental news... We're watching these other things."

Besides the macroeconomic data, energy investors will also be watching Wednesday's weekly inventory report from the US Energy Information Administration.

Analysts expect US crude-oil stockpiles fell 1.9 million barrels, according to a survey from Dow Jones Newswires. A series of unexpectedly large inventory declines in recent weeks has lent upward pressure to oil prices.