Oil prices weaken after US energy report

Oil prices weaken after US energy report

Global oil prices weakened today, erasing gains seen earlier in the day on news of a sharp drop in demand in top crude consumer the United States.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in February declined by 39 cents to USD 111.55 a barrel in London late afternoon trade.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for February or West Texas Intermediate (WTI), reversed nine cents to USD 93.06 per barrel.

"Crude oil turned lower in the afternoon after making a positive start," said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at trading firm GFT Markets.

"The reversal came after the EIA said inventories rose by 1.3 million barrels last week. The build suggests demand is not quite as strong and supply remains abundant in the United States.

"Looking forward to the remainder of the week, we will have important data releases from China, the world's second largest consumer of oil. Any good numbers there will be seen as oil-positive."

The US government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that American crude oil stocks grew by 1.3 million barrels in the week ending January 4.

However, this undershot market expectations for a 2.2-million-barrel gain, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

The EIA added that gasoline or petrol stockpiles surged by 7.4 million barrels. That was far higher than forecasts for a rise of 2.1 million barrels. Reserves of distillates -- which include diesel and heating fuel -- soared 6.8 million barrels, well beyond the expected 1.4-million-barrel increase.

Crude futures also fell today on lingering concerns over the American economy despite better-than-expected earnings from aluminium giant Alcoa, analysts said.

Global markets have shifted their attention from the US fiscal debate to corporate earnings to gauge the health of the world's biggest economy and largest oil consuming nation going into 2013, analysts said.

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