By Alison Sider
Crude oil flipped between gains and losses after Russia's energy minister appeared to support a deal by major oil producers to scale back production at an upcoming meeting, and new data showed that U.S. oil inventories continued to swell.
Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told reporters at a Moscow energy forum that Russia would "support any decision" adopted by OPEC, according to media reports.
Mr. Novak's comments boosted prices shortly after a report from the U.S. Information Administration showed a 5.3-million-barrel increase in U.S. crude supplies last week -- well above the 1.1-million-barrel increase anticipated by analysts and traders surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.
Crude prices traded as high as $46.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, before dropping to $45.50 -- down 31 cents, or 0.68% from Tuesday. Brent, the international benchmark, was down 41 cents, or 0.87%, at $46.54 a barrel.
Oil markets have been whipsawed in recent weeks as market participants have tried to suss out the likelihood that OPEC will come to an agreement to cut output. Many had become broadly skeptical as some members raised disputes with the plan, but reports of increasing efforts to work out a deal prompted a 5.75% increase in prices Tuesday.
Mr. Novak is slated to meet with oil ministers from Saudi Arabia and Qatar later this week.
Wednesday's data showing swelling U.S. stockpiles puts more pressure on OPEC, analysts said. Gasoline and diesel inventories also increased, and total stocks of petroleum products increased by 7.1 millionbarrels.
"They've got to come up with some kind of deal or it's going to get pretty ugly," said Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA Inc.
But there were signs of increasing demand for crude by refiners, which are coming out of seasonal maintenance. Refiners processed 16.1 million barrels of oil during the week, up from 15.8 the previous week, and refinery utilization jumped from 87.1% to 89.2% -- well above the 87.9% forecast by traders and analysts.
Gasoline futures were down 0.28 cents, or 0.21%, at $1.3322 a gallon. Diesel futures rose 0.41 cents, or 0.28%, at $1.448 a gallon
--Neanda Salvaterra, Dan Strumpf, and Benoit Faucon contributed to this article.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 16, 2016 12:07 ET (17:07 GMT)
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