West Texas Intermediate struggled to stay in positive territory in choppy North American trade on Wednesday, despite bullish data showing that oil supplies in the U.S. registered a surprise inventory draw, while gasoline and distillate stocks both declined more than forecast
Crude oil for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 1 cent, or 0.02%, to trade at $53.41 barrel by 10:40AM ET (14:40GMT) compared to $53.47 ahead of the report.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that crude oil inventories fell by 2.166 million barrels in the week ended April 7. Market analysts' had expected a crude-stock build of 0.087 million barrels, while the American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday reported a 1.33 million barrels decline in stockpiles.
Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery point for Nymex crude, increased by 0.276 million barrels last week, the EIA said. Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 533.4 million barrels as of last week, according to the press release, which the EIA considered to be “near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year”.
The report also showed that gasoline inventories decreased by 2.973 million barrels, compared to expectations for a draw of 1.721 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles fell by 2.153 million barrels, compared to forecasts for a decline of 0.885 million.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for June delivery turned lower and traded up 14 cents, or 0.25%, to $56.01 by 10:41AM ET (14:41GMT), compared to $56.25 before the release.
Meanwhile, Brent's premium to the WTI crude contract stood at $2.76 a barrel by 10:42AM ET (14:42GMT), compared to a gap of $2.83 by close of trade on Tuesday.
Elsewhere on Nymex, gasoline futures for May fell 1.4 cents to $1.749 a gallon, while May heating oil rose 0.5 cents to $1.655 a gallon. Natural gas futures for May delivery gained 3.3 cents to $3.183 per million British thermal units.
Prices were boosted earlier on Wednesday following reports that Saudi Arabia has told officials from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that it wants to extend an agreement to cut output for another six months when the group meets in May.
A joint committee of ministers from OPEC and non-OPEC producers will meet in late April to present its recommendation on the fate of the pact. A final decision on whether or not to extend the deal beyond June will be taken by the oil cartel on May 25.
In November of last year, OPEC and other producers, including Russia agreed to cut output by about 1.8 million barrels per day during the first half of 2017 in a bid to reduce a global supply glut and rebalance the market. Production cuts began in January for a period of six months until June.
Also on Wednesday, OPEC’s monthly report showed that cartel members had cut production by 153,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 31.928 million bpd in March, while the 11 members with supply cut targets registered 104% compliance with the agreement