By Sarah McFarlane and Jenny W. Hsu
Crude oil prices fell for the fifth day in a row on Thursday as market sentiment remained pessimistic following data showing U.S. crude inventories made their largest gains in more than 30 years last week.
U.S. crude futures settled down 68 cents, or 1.5%, at $44.66 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, closing at the lowest level since Sept. 23. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, lost 51 cents, or 1.1%, to $46.35 a barrel.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude-oil stockpiles rose by a record 14.4 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 28. The report sent prices lower and highlighted concerns over excess supply in the global oil market.
Selling on the record inventory build continued Thursday, said Andy Lebow, senior partner at Commodity Research Group. "A lot of the bullish undercurrents to this market have been removed to a certain extent. We're still reeling from yesterday's stock build," he said.
The main focus over recent months has been when oil demand will catch up with supply after a glut that has already gone on for two years, and whether the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will reach consensus on a deal to cut output.
The latest EIA report was a discouraging sign for supply and demand rebalancing.
Growth was mainly driven by strong imports -- which averaged nine million barrels a day last week, two million barrels more than the week before, the EIA said. It added that over the past four weeks, crude-oil imports to the U.S. averaged 7.7 million barrels a day, an increase of 7% from a year earlier.
"With the seasonal refinery maintenance, it is easy to see how the backlog built up," said Stuart Ive, a client manager at OM Financial. Other analysts also noted that many of the cargoes delivered to the U.S. last week were delayed shipments because of earlier inclement weather.
The prolonged decline in oil prices, spurred by overproduction, has dented profit margins of major oil and gas companies. Many of them have scaled back spending in the upstream sector. Even heavyweight oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, are faced with national budget problems as revenue from exports dries up.
The price slide has also encouraged producers to pump as much oil as possible with output from producers including Russia at record levels.
To alleviate the overhang of supplies, OPEC members in September decided to curtail production by 200,000 to 700,000 barrels a day. The decision is expected to be ratified at the next OPEC meeting on Nov. 30, but discord among OPEC members on potential exemptions for some countries has raised doubts about whether a deal will come through.
"The main focus remains whether OPEC can do something, I think they will, I think they have to," said Ole Hansen, head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank.
Gasoline futures settled down 1.6% at $1.4245 a gallon, and diesel futures settled down 0.6% at $1.4582 a gallon.
Stephanie Yang contributed to this article.
Write to Sarah McFarlane at firstname.lastname@example.org and Jenny W. Hsu at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 03, 2016 15:59 ET (19:59 GMT)
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