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Oil prices fall after US stockpiles hit record high

Oil prices fell on Wednesday as US commercial crude-oil stockpiles hit an all-time high on the strength of production in the world's biggest oil-consuming country.

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Wednesday as US commercial crude-oil stockpiles hit an all-time high on the strength of production in the world's biggest oil-consuming country.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in June, fell 31 cents on its first day of trade to $101.44 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for June shed 16 cents to finish at $109.11 a barrel in London.

The US Department of Energy reported commercial crude-oil stocks rose 3.5 million barrels to 397.7 million barrels for the week ended April 18.

That is the highest level of inventories since the DoE began releasing weekly data in 1982 and the highest level since 1931, according to monthly data kept by the agency.

The increase was larger than analysts expected, with an average estimate of 2.4 million barrels reported by Dow Jones Newswire, but investors had braced for a new record on Tuesday, sending WTI sharply lower.

Carl Larry of Oil Outlooks and Opinion said the market "kind of stayed neutral" after the inventories report which on first glance seemed bearish.

"After yesterday's move, you're seeing fair value again," he said.

"There is a lot more upside once demand starts to pick up again... with the economy showing a steady growth."

The market's reaction was tempered by the DoE's data showing inventories at the closely watched hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, fell by 800,000 barrels to 26.0 million barrels, according to John Kilduff of Again Capital.

Investors continued to monitor developments in the crisis between Russia and Ukraine, which is a major conduit for Russian natural gas to Western Europe, analysts said.

Traders remain "on the alert for any conclusive developments in eastern Ukraine that would either release tensions or escalate the possibility of an interruption in Russian oil and gas supplies," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures.

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