| SINGAPORE, April 6
SINGAPORE, April 6 Oil prices fell on Thursday
as record U.S. crude inventories underscored that markets remain
bloated by high production and brimming storage despite efforts
led by OPEC to cut output and prop up prices.
Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for
oil, were at $54.09 per barrel at 0124 GMT, down 27 cents, or
0.5 percent, from their last close.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were
down 29 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $50.86 a barrel.
Traders said the price falls came on the back of rising U.S.
crude oil production that resulted in record inventories.
U.S. fuel inventories and oil production levels are key to
determine whether the United States will remain the world's
biggest oil importer, which is a price supporting indicator, or
if its soaring production and bloated stocks lead to lower
imports and trigger shipments to the rest of the world, which
would weigh on oil markets.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a
1.57 million barrels increase in crude inventories late on
Wednesday, bringing total U.S. stocks to a new record of 535.5
million barrels C-STK-T-EIA.
"Weaker-than-expected U.S. oil inventory data saw the sector
sell off," ANZ bank said on Thursday.
The bloated crude inventories came as U.S. oil production
rose 52,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 9.2 million bpd
C-OUT-T-EIA, a more than 9 percent increase since mid-2016 to
levels last seen at the start of the oil market slump in late
2014 and early 2015.
Within the U.S. crude inventories, stocks at Cushing, in
Oklahoma, are seen as particularly important as this is the
delivery hub into the U.S. WTI pricing hub.
Crude stocks at Cushing rose 1.4 million
barrels to a record 69.1 million barrels.
Cushing crude tank farms have a total storage capacity of 77
million barrels, said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at
U.S. Gulf Coast inventories also jumped, by 2.7 million
barrels, to a peak of 280.9 million barrels, the EIA said.
Because of the glut, U.S. crude exports have soared to a
record 1.1 million bpd, with most cargoes going to Asia, eroding
efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries (OPEC) to cut output in an effort to prop up prices.
Somewhat offsetting the bloated U.S. crude market, however,
is strong demand.
ANZ said that high refinery activity "negated some of that
(crude) weakness," with refineries operating at 90.8 percent at
capacity last week, up 1.5 percent from the previous week.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Richard Pullin)