US crude oil fell over 3% to below $70 a barrel today as US equities struggled for traction and raised fears about the economy and a recovery in energy demand.

US crude fell $2.20 to $69.74 by 6.24pm after rising to $72.90 in choppy trading. London Brent crude fell $2.10 to $67.76 a barrel.

US stocks were hampered by profit taking after five days of gains and the longest winning streak since November which helped boost crude prices earlier in the week. Analysts and traders say that current oil prices reflect attitudes in the market rather than fundamentals.

Data released yesterday by the US government showed petroleum product inventories, including heating oil and gasoline, rose more than expected last week, suggesting lacklustre demand.

Data showed China's crude oil imports in August surged about 25% to a near-record high of 19.6 million tonnes or around 4.6 million barrels.

Oil hit a year-high of $75 a barrel in late August, from below $33 in December, as global oil demand recovered. Crude's climb mirrored a rise in European equities, which were headed for their sixth consecutive session of gains.

Since March 9, equities and oil have traded in close correlation.