Oil prices fell to about $60 a barrel Wednesday after OPEC’s president said the group would keep output intact and the U.S. Department of Energy reported a sharp rise in crude stocks last week.
Edmund Daukoru, Nigeria’s oil minister and president of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, said output would remain unchanged but monitored by the cartel. OPEC ministers will meet again in Venezuela on June 1.
Meanwhile Wednesday, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude stocks rose 6.8 million barrels in the week ended Friday to 335.1 million, the highest level since 1999. The increase was attributed to a rise in imports and a fall in refinery use, the latter because of seasonal maintenance.
“It was an extremely large build in crude stocks. It was way above any expectations,” said Tom Bentz, an analyst at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures in New York.
Light, sweet crude for April delivery fell $1.56 to settle at $60.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after hitting a low of $59.25 earlier in the day.
Wednesday’s settlement price was the lowest since Feb. 17, when crude closed at $59.88 a barrel.
The contract has fallen more than $3 this week since Friday’s settlement price of $63.67.
In Wednesday’s report, the EIA also said gasoline inventories fell 1.1 million barrels to 224.8 million and distillate fuel inventories -- which include heating oil and diesel -- fell 2.7 million barrels to 131.4 million.
Both remain above the upper end of the average range for this time of year, the EIA said, but gasoline stocks are now 0.5% below year-ago levels and gasoline demand is 2.5% higher.