Oil prices are sliding, ending a four-day rally, as the U.S. government reports that crude inventories surged last week.
The 6.3 million barrel increase in oil supplies was far more than analysts expected.
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The price of U.S. crude slumped $3.43, or 6.5 percent, to $49.60 a barrel in midday trading in New York.
Traders had pushed prices higher over the past four trading days on signs that major energy companies were starting to cut back on exploration.
The price of oil reached its highest point of the year Tuesday, raising hopes that a long-running collapse was abating. The price has been falling sharply since last June, when it peaked at $107 a barrel.