Oil prices fell on Wednesday as U.S. government data showed crude inventories rose last week and as a stronger dollar and weaker global equities applied pressure.
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U.S. crude oil stocks rose 2.5 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its weekly report, contrasting with expectations inventories would be down 2.3 million barrels.
"The crude oil inventory rise was driven by a strong rebound in crude oil imports, which neared 8 million barrels per day," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.
Crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia rose to 1.44 million barrels per day (bpd), up from 1.32 million the previous week, according to EIA data. Imports from several other OPEC-member countries also rose.
Equity markets were pulled lower by a weak revenue forecast at Apple Inc, the world's largest company, while the dollar rebounded from its biggest decline in a month.
A stronger dollar increases profits for producers selling dollar-denominated oil and more expensive for consumers using other currencies.
U.S. September crude was down $1 at $49.86 a barrel at 12:55 p.m. EDT (1655 GMT). It fell intraday after the EIA data to $49.67, two cents below the previous contract low from March.
U.S. crude dropped below $50 on Monday for the first time since April and its 14-day Relative Strength Index (RSI) is below 30. A reading below 30 is considered an indication of an oversold condition by technical traders.
Brent September crude was down 52 cents at $56.52, off its session low of $56.16.
Pressure has been rising on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to adjust production in the face of an expected rise in Iranian exports if sanctions are loosened. A sharp fall in the Chinese stock market and concerns about the Greek debt crisis have also added to worries about demand for petroleum.
OPEC delegates indicated this week they expected the recent price drop to be short-lived and that they would not defer from a strategy of keeping output high to maintain market share.
U.S. August RBOB gasoline pared losses on EIA data showing stockpiles fell last week and data showing distillate stocks fell less than expected lent support to ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) futures.
Headwinds could be developing for diesel prices, with China's August diesel exports expected to reach their highest since at least 1999 as the domestic market cannot absorb high output from refineries.
Saudi Arabia has also been stepping up diesel exports. (Additional reporting by Karolin Schaps in London and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy)