Oil Tumbles as Stockpile Worry Overshadows Rally

Oil Reuters

Global oil prices fell as much as 4 percent on Monday on concerns a six-week market recovery has gone beyond fundamentals, as U.S. crude stockpiles continue to mount and Iran maintains little interest in a global production freeze.

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Market intelligence firm Genscape reported an inventory build of 585,854 barrels in Cushing, Oklahoma, taking the delivery hub for U.S. crude futures closer to capacity, traders who saw the data said.

Russia said OPEC's meeting on a production freeze with other key oil producers like itself will probably be held in Doha in next month. It said Iran supports the plan, although Tehran was keen to restore its crude exports first to pre-sanction levels.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley predicted a $25-$45 trading range for U.S. crude in an oversupplied but volatile market, concurring with several analysts' views.

"We feel that the bulk of this stronger than expected 5-6 week price advance has been seen and that prices will be shifting into a near term consolidation phase," said Jim Ritterbusch of Chicago energy consultancy Ritterbusch & Associates.

U.S. crude was down $1.60, or 4 percent, at $36.90 a barrel by 11:11 a.m. EDT (1511 GMT). It hit a three-month high of $39.02 on Friday, surging from a 12-year low of $26.05 a month earlier.

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Brent was down $1.10, or 2.8 percent, at $39.29 barrel. The benchmark fell to a 2003 low of $27.10 in late January.

Some analysts expect a more bearish supply-demand picture when the U.S. government issues weekly oil data on Wednesday. Last week's report showed a crude build of nearly 4 million barrels to above 521 million barrels, the fourth straight week of growing to record highs.

"I think as we approach $40 for WTI and Brent, the market will not like a net build of more than 2 million barrels this week," said Scott Shelton, energy broker at ICAP in Durham, North Carolina.

"But I also think the net build will be less than what we had earlier in the first quarter, which means we are not ready to retrace prices in a large way, but also not ready for $40-$45 either."

Money managers, including hedge funds, raised their bullish bets on U.S. crude for a third week in a row to November highs, data showed on Friday, on conviction prices have bottomed after a near two-year selloff.

But in a sign investors were growing more skeptical about Brent, U.K.-based data showed on Monday that speculators had cut net long positions in the global crude benchmark by 9,500 contracts in the week to March 8.

(By Barani Krishnan; Additional reporting by Karolin Schaps in LONDON and Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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