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Oil down as rising US inventories reawaken supply anxiety

Tokyo

OIL prices fell on Wednesday after a rise in crude and fuel stockpiles in the United States revived fears about oversupply and falling fuel demand in the world's largest crude consumer amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Brent crude futures fell 67 cents, or 1.6 per cent, to US$40.51 a barrel by 0636 GMT after gaining nearly one per cent on Tuesday. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures dropped 80 cents, or 2.1 per cent, to US$38.14 a barrel, having risen about 2 per cent in the previous session.

The oil benchmarks rose to their highest in three months on Monday but some analysts think the market has risen too far, too fast as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world with new infections posting daily highs.

"With equity markets edging lower, and a vast amount of good news baked into oil prices at these levels, it was no surprise that the oil market's confidence wavered slightly," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda.

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"That was not helped by a blowout rise in US API crude inventories to eight million barrels," he added.

US oil stocks climbed 8.4 million barrels in the week to June 5, API data showed, while a Reuters poll of analysts had indicated a draw of 1.7 million barrels. Distillate fuel stockpiles, including diesel fuel and heating oil, rose by 4.3 million barrels, outpacing expectations for a three-million barrel increase.

Official government figures on stockpiles from the Energy Information Administration were due later on Wednesday.

While layoffs fell in the US in April, hiring hit a record low indicating it will take many years for a recovery in the labour market in the world's biggest economy.

In Japan, the world's second-biggest economy, machinery orders slumped in April at the fastest pace in two years, according to data released on Wednesday. Still, the refinery run rate in the world's fourth-biggest importer of oil, rose off more than 10-year lows last week to 54.5 per cent, as economic activity picked up after the Japanese government lifted a state of emergency in late May.

Prices have been supported in recent weeks as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), Russia and other producers, a group known as Opec+, put in place record production cuts that they extended on Saturday.

But Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates said they would not continue further voluntary reductions of 1.18 million barrels per day. REUTERS

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