Oil price approaches six-year low

LONDON: New York oil prices tumbled close to six-year lows on Thursday, as record-high US crude inventories deepened worries over the global supply glut.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for March delivery slumped to $44.21 a barrel, which was just one cent above the March 2009 low of $44.20 hit two weeks ago.

The contract later stood at $44.44, down one cent from Wednesday’s close.

European benchmark Brent North Sea crude for March rose 43 cents to stand at $48.90 a barrel in London midday deals.

“As a result of another sharp build in US oil stocks, WTI is hovering dangerously around the $44 handle,” said Forex.com analyst Fawad Razaqzada.

“A potential break below here may encourage fresh selling which could see prices take another leg lower as there is little technical support seen until the next psychological level of $40 a barrel,” he told AFP.

Crude futures dived Wednesday after official data showed US crude stockpiles surged by 8.9 million barrels to 406.7 million in the week to January 23.

The overall level of stockpiles was the highest since the US government began keeping weekly records in 1982.

In reaction, WTI dropped $1.78 in New York while Brent fell $1.13 in London.

“Crude oil stocks now find themselves at their highest level since the data series began more than 30 years ago and are 17 percent above the five-year average,” added Commerzbank analysts.

“The lion’s share of the inventory build took place on the US Gulf Coast, where the biggest storage capacities are to be found.

Crude oil stocks at Cushing also grew by a significant two million barrels, meaning that the inventory build there has totalled a good eight million barrels since the beginning of the year.”

Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, said the stockpiles surge came as “no surprise” as refinery utilisation rates in the world’s top crude consumer have been low.

However, “what is really shocking is that US production still continues to increase despite low crude prices”, Ang said.

“Without a drop in US crude production, it is going to be an uphill battle for oil bulls,” he added.