Oil Prices Continue to Fall as Glut Worries Continue
Oil prices continued to fall on Wednesday after weekly data showed U.S. crude stockpiles surged to a fresh record.
U.S. crude for May delivery was recently down 60 cents, or 1.24%, at $47.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 72 cents, or 1.41%, to $50.24 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
Crude futures dropped sharply just after the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that crude-oil supplies rose by 4.95 million barrels last week, surging to a record 533.1 million barrels. Price pared losses but still traded around four month lows.
The data is the latest sign that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries still faces an uphill battle in its efforts to chip away at the glut that has weighed on prices since 2014.
The increase in the amount of crude oil in storage was roughly in line with the 4.5 million barrel build that industry group the American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday night, but more than double the 2.1 million barrel increase that analysts and traders surveyed by The Wall Street Journal were anticipating.
The build came as U.S. oil output rose for a fifth straight week to nearly 9.13 million barrels per day -- a 13 month high and a 20,000 barrel-a-day increase from the previous week. Imports also rose by 902,000 barrels a day.
Market participants have been watching both those figures closely, waiting for signals that OPEC's cuts are being felt in the U.S., and trying to gauge whether rising U.S. production will offset those cuts.
Still, Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures, said he didn't expect the data to cause oil prices to fall much further.
"I would consider this report fairly neutral," he said. "I think crude is going to hold this range and start edging higher."
Analysts say OPEC and major producers like Russia need to extend their output cut if they hope to make a dent in the global glut.
"Even if for the time being it may be seen differently, it's not OPEC which is setting the price, it's very much the U.S. oil production," said Eugen Weinberg, an analyst at Commerzbank. "OPEC are not anymore in the driving seat and the sooner they realize it, the better."
Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has said it would support stretching out the deal if necessary, but analysts are concerned that Russia may not commit.
Russia had agreed to slash its production by 300,000 barrels a day by the end of the agreement period. Russian news agency, Tass, earlier this week reported that the country slashed its oil production by 161,000 barrels a day as of March 19 compared with the October 2016 level, the baseline used by the participants of the output cut deal.
But several of the country's biggest firms, including state-controlled oil giant PAO Rosneft, have announced plans to step up their production during the year, analysts note.
Gasoline futures fell 1.38 cents, or 0.86%, to $1.5914 a gallon. Diesel futures fell 1.34 cents, or 0.89%, to $1.4899 a gallon.
--Dan Molinski contributed to this article
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