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U.S. Oil Remains Lower After Inventory Data

EIA’s data show an unexpected increase in crude-oil stockpiles

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Oil prices are holding close to unchanged Thursday after data that suggested an unexpected rise in U.S. stockpiles has put a cap on a recent rally.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said late Wednesday that its estimates showed crude inventories rising 4.2 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 23, a week when analysts expected stockpiles had shrunk. Prices slipped on the news and have budged little since, extending a period of relative stasis that began late in Tuesday’s trading.

U.S. crude for February delivery recently lost 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $54.00 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent, the global benchmark, gained 23 cents, or 0.4%, to $56.45 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Brent’s front-month February contract expires at settlement. The more-actively-traded March contract recently gained 18 cents, or 0.3%, to $57.14 a barrel

“The crude complex saw this week’s bullish momentum grind to a halt,” Robbie Fraser, commodity analyst at consultant Schneider Electric SA in Louisville, Ky., said in a note.

Oil prices had been rising gradually throughout December, after the world’s exporters announced plans to cut output. But many traders are still awaiting signs that cuts are happening and storage levels are retreating from record highs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration plans to release its weekly update on U.S. stockpiles at 11 a.m. EST, a day delayed because of the Christmas holiday Monday. Despite API’s estimate of an increase, analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal forecast a 1.4 million barrel decline in crude supplies.

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Written by Timothy Puko, Sarah McFarlane and Jenny W. Hsu at The Wall Street Journal

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