Oil slid from near $60 a barrel in New York amid conflicting signals on U.S. crude inventories, while traders continued to weigh OPEC supply cuts and fragile demand.
West Texas Intermediate futures fell 0.6 percent. Crude stockpiles rose by 1.93 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute was said to report on Tuesday. But a survey of analysts by Bloomberg, conducted before the API data was released, predicted that government data due Wednesday will show a 2.5 million-barrel decline.
The report from the API “failed to provide concrete price signals,” said Stephen Brennock, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London. “Yo-yo price swings have become the norm in the oil market.”
Oil is poised for the best quarterly gain since 2009 as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies curb production to clear excess inventories. Signs the U.S. shale boom is running out of steam, power outages in Venezuela and American sanctions on Iran are also supporting prices, though the outlook for demand remains uncertain as investors wait to see whether the U.S. and China can resolve their trade war.
WTI for May delivery dropped 38 cents to $59.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 10:50 a.m. London time. The contract climbed $1.12 to $59.94 on Tuesday. It has risen 31 percent so far this quarter.
Brent for May settlement slipped 10 cents to $67.87 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, after advancing 76 cents on Tuesday. The global benchmark crude was at a premium of $8.32 to WTI.
Russia, the world’s second-biggest crude producer, is on track to reach its pledged output cut of 228,000 barrels a day by the end of March, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said this week. In addition to the deliberate reductions by Russia and its partners in and outside OPEC, some of the group’s members are seeing unintended supply losses.
Venezuela’s main oil ports were said to remain shut on Tuesday after a power outage halted exports a day earlier. The ports of Jose and Puerto La Cruz — which account for about 89 percent of the country’s crude exports — remained closed, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.
The blackout, the second in less than three weeks, also disrupted production at state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s joint ventures with Chevron Corp., Rosneft PJSC, Equinor ASA and Total SA in the Orinoco Belt.
Other oil-market news: The complex web of U.S. pipelines, tanks and export terminals that’s helped make America the world’s top oil producer is causing a headache for some crude buyers. Houston’s refining industry may be on the verge of a crude-supply shortage as safety concerns restrict traffic on a key waterway. Oil is gushing out of Nigeria at the fastest pace since at least mid-2016 with crude shipments surging to 2.02 million barrels a day so far in March.