Crude Oil Hits 10-Month Low Despite Report of Lower U.S. Stockpiles

By Alison Sider and Neanda Salvaterra Features Dow Jones Newswires

Even good news is bad news for oil these days.

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Oil prices fell to a 10-month low Wednesday as investors shook off U.S. data showing that stockpiles continued to shrink and focused on relentlessly rising production.

U.S. crude futures fell 98 cents, or 2.25%, at $42.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange -- the lowest settlement level since Aug. 10. Brent, the global benchmark, fell $1.20, or 2.61%, to $44.82 on ICE Futures Europe.

Oil prices slid into bear market territory Tuesday and Wednesday's trading emphasized that negative sentiment has taken hold, analysts said.

"A bear market is a market that fails to react bullishly to bullish news, " said Bill O'Grady, chief market strategist at Confluence Investment Management. "That's kind of where we are. The broader fundamentals frankly didn't justify oil north of $50. But they really don't justify prices this low either."

Crude oil stockpiles fell by 2.5 million barrels to 509.1 million barrels in the week ended June 16, according to the EIA. Analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal were expecting a two-million-barrel drawdown.

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Gasoline stockpiles also fell more than anticipated -- dropping by 578,000 barrels, compared with the 100,000 barrel decline that analysts had been anticipating.

The declines should have been welcome news for investors anxiously awaiting indications that bloated U.S. oil supplies are shrinking -- a signal that production cuts implemented by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major producers this year are working.

"The majority view was if we had draws in crude and gasoline, we would have some kind of rally," said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. "It looks to me that folks took that opportunity to be sellers of the rally."

And U.S. producers have rushed in to fill the void left by OPEC. U.S. oil output is at a 22-month high and inched higher yet again last week, rising by 20,000 barrels a day, according to the EIA.

Some analysts say investors are suffering from OPEC fatigue and are no longer responding to positive market signals.

"OPEC's current policy has failed, in part due to member states destocking millions of barrels of crude from their own storage, at the same time as cutting production and reassuring the market that the rebalancing was on the way because output was down," analysts from Energy Aspects said in a note. "The fecklessness of this policy has destroyed the group's credibility, forcing bullish players out of the market."

Rising production from OPEC members such as Nigeria and Libya that were exempt from the cut are undermining the idea that the cartel can lift prices.

Gasoline futures fell 1.35 cents, or 0.95%, to $1.4105 a gallon. Diesel futures fell 3.01 cents, or 2.16%, to $1.3648 a gallon.

Dan Molinski contributed to this article.

Write to Alison Sider at alison.sider@wsj.com and Neanda Salvaterra at neanda.salvaterra@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 21, 2017 16:34 ET (20:34 GMT)