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Large Crude Inventory Build Sends Prices Tumbling

Crude by rail

The American Petroleum Institute (API) estimated on Tuesday a larger than anticipated crude oil inventory build of 4.18 million barrels for the week ending January 31, compared to analyst expectations of a 2.8-million-barrel build in inventory.

Last week saw a surprise draw in crude oil inventories of 4.27 million barrels, according to API data. The EIA’s estimates, however, were for a build of 3.5-million barrels for that week.

Oil prices were down in the afternoon hours, after trending upward earlier in the day on news that OPEC was in talks about what action to take in response to the effects of the coronavirus that have disrupted travel within China and consequently, oil demand.

At 3:39 pm EST on Tuesday the WTI benchmark was trading down $0.23 (-0.46%) at $49.88—more than $3 down compared to last week’s levels. The price of a Brent barrel was also trading down on Tuesday, by $0.22 (-0.40%), at $54.23—off more than $4 per barrel compared to last week’s prices. Overall, the benchmarks have slid more than $10 since the beginning of the year.

The API this week also reported a build of 1.96 million barrels of gasoline for week ending January 31, after last week’s large 3.27-million-barrel build. This week’s large gasoline build compares to analyst expectations of a 2.057-million barrel-build for the week.

Distillate inventories were down by 1.78 million barrels for the week, compared to last week’s 141,000 draw, while Cushing inventories rose by 960,000 barrels.

US crude oil production as estimated by the Energy Information Administration showed that production for the week ending January 24 stayed at 13.0 million bpd for a third week in a row, a record high for the United States.

At 4:39 pm EDT, both benchmarks had fallen further, with WTI trading at $49.63, and Brent trading at $54.00.

By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com

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