Oil Prices Seesaw as Oversupply Worries Persist

Dow Jones Newswires

Oil futures ticked higher Tuesday, rebounding slightly from multiyear lows, on expectations that weekly inventory data could show a drop in U.S. oil supplies.

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Oil prices have plunged in recent months on concerns that global supply growth is outpacing tepid demand, and that the market will continue to be oversupplied in 2015. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries chose last month not to lower its production quota, an indication that supplies could remain ample next year.

A barrel of crude costs about half of what it did just six months ago, and oil prices are set to post their largest yearly losses since 2008, when prices plummeted from record highs amid a global recession. Crude oil and petroleum products are on track to be the worst-performing commodities of the year.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is set to release storage data for the week ended Dec. 26 on Wednesday. Some analysts expect the report to show that oil supplies fell last week, which could boost prices.

Light, sweet crude for February delivery recently rose 26 cents, or 0.5%, to $54.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up from as low as $52.70 a barrel in overnight trading.

Brent, the global benchmark, traded up 9 cents, or 0.2%, at $57.97 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.

"I think the intention here is to square up ahead of the report tomorrow, " said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. "The market would respond positively to any kind of draw in the crude-oil [storage] number."

Tim Evans, analyst at Citi Futures Perspective, said in a note that he expects the EIA to report a decline in crude-oil supplies due to lower imports during Christmas week.

Diesel futures had climbed the most as of Tuesday morning. Diesel futures are a proxy for heating oil, which sees strong consumption in the winter, and some analysts have been concerned that heating-oil supplies are too low in the Northeast to meet demand.

Diesel futures for January delivery recently rose 2.59 cents, or 1.4%, to $1.8750 a gallon.

U.S. oil producers appear to be scaling back amid the price rout, with the onshore drilling-rig count falling by 37 to 1,499 last week, according to oil-field services company Baker Hughes Inc. It was the third consecutive week the drilling rig count fell, and one of the biggest since crude-oil prices began tumbling in June.

But reduced spending will take months to translate into lower oil production, analysts say.

"U.S. shale players seem to be putting the brakes on, but the inventories there are still very high," said Thina Saltvedt, senior oil analyst at Nordea Bank in Oslo. "What is more, there is no indication that any of the other major producers will make a radical cut anytime soon."

Gasoline futures for January delivery recently rose 0.55 cent, or 0.4%, to $1.4583 a gallon. As of Monday's settlement, gasoline was the worst-performing commodity year-to-date of the 22 commodities tracked by the Bloomberg Commodity Index.

Georgi Kantchev contributed to this article

Write to Nicole Friedman at nicole.friedman@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

This item was corrected at 10:39 a.m. ET to adjust the headline to "Oil Prices Reverse Losses Ahead of Inventory Data" from "Oil Prices Continue to Slide on Oversupply Concerns".