Oil sinks to 18-year low as inventories swell by most on record

WTI crude fell more than 4.5% to $19.20 a barrel

West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell to an 18-year low as U.S. inventories grew at a historic pace last week.

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The U.S. benchmark plunged by as much as 4.52 percent on Wednesday to $19.20 a barrel, the lowest since February 2002. WTI was trading at around $20 before the report.

"This was a report unlike anything the oil industry has seen before: It really shows the total shutdown of the U.S. economy expressed in barrels of oil," Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group, told FOX Business.

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"Gasoline demand is almost half of what it was, and U.S. refiners have slowed runs to almost historic lows, Flynn added. "They had better open up the SPR quickly or we may soon run out of storage."

The SPR, or Strategic Petroleum Reserve, is an emergency stockpile of crude oil maintained by the U.S. government.

Crude stockpiles rose by a record 19.2 million barrels in the week ended April 10 to 503.6 million barrels, according to the Energy Information Administration, 6 percent above their five-year average. The build was far greater than the 11.7 million-barrel increase that economists surveyed by Refinitiv were anticipating.

Gasoline inventories rose by 4.9 million barrels and are 12 percent above their five-year average.

Earlier this week, the world's largest oil producers reached a historic agreement aimed at reducing a global glut that has pushed prices down by 60 percent this year.

Crude supplies had ballooned since 2019 as the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia flooded the market with inventory at the same time government "stay-at-home" orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic zapped demand by 9.3 million barrels per day, removing a decade's worth of growth, according to a report released earlier on Wednesday by the EIA.

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Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo in an interview aired on Wednesday morning that the agreement will reduce global output by 20 million barrels per day, confirming comments made by President Trump earlier in the week.