Oil prices fall as crude stocks rise
By Jessica Resnick-Ault
NEW YORK, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Oil prices fell slightly on Wednesday as record high U.S. crude and gasoline inventories fed concerns about a glut, but trade was choppy and losses were limited by evidence that OPEC and other producing countries were complying with agreed-upon supply cuts.
U.S. crude stocks soared by 9.5 million barrels last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, nearly three times more than forecast. Late Tuesday, a trade group also reported a larger-than-expected build.
U.S. crude inventories hit a peak at 518.12 million barrels, the EIA said. Gasoline stocks also touched a record, rising 2.8 million barrels to 259.1 million barrels.
Brent crude futures fell 19 cents to $55.78 a barrel while U.S. crude futures dipped 11 cents to $53.09 a barrel. Prices had whipsawed after the EIA data.
Gasoline futures were down 0.2 per cent to $1.5439 a gallon by 1:24 p.m. EST (1824 GMT) after falling by as much as 0.8 per cent.
“The U.S. witnessed yet another week of higher-than-expected stock builds; nonetheless, the build was less than last week’s, which helped prices recoup some of the earlier losses,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy’s Global Gas Analytics in London.
“A build in gasoline stock is in tandem with seasonal norms and further builds are expected in the coming weeks as demand for the fuel remains low.”
Gasoline inventories have surged 10 percent since the end of 2016, EIA data showed. Last week, stockpiles of the fuel swelled to a record at 259 million barrels.
The dollar weakened, which also helped support greenback-denominated oil.
To support prices, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers, including Russia, are cutting output by almost 1.8 million barrels per day in the first half of 2017. OPEC in January delivered record compliance of over 90 per cent with its output curbs, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency and figures collected by OPEC’s headquarters.
Still, a report by BMI Research said a compliance rate of just 40 percent by Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest producer, “could prove problematic to group cohesion.”
Also, Russia and the other non-OPEC producers have delivered smaller cutbacks. The oil minister of Oman, one of the participating non-OPEC countries, said he expected compliance to improve.
(Additional reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York, Henning Gloystein in Singapore and Alex Lawler in London; editing by Alan Crosby and David Gregorio)