Oil futures drifted lower Thursday, extending a decline seen the previous session after data showed an unexpected rise in U.S. crude inventories and a drop in gasoline demand.
West Texas Intermediate crude for September delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 23 cents, or 0.6%, to $41.67 a barrel, while September Brent crude was off 12 cents, or 0.3%, at $44.17 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe.
Crude prices finished slightly lower Wednesday, pulling back a day after settling at their highest since March, pressured by an unexpected weekly climb in U.S. crude stockpiles. The Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that U.S. crude inventories rose by 4.9 million barrels for the week ended July 17. That compared with an average forecast by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts for a decline of 1.9 million barrels.
The weekly data from the Energy Information Administration had a “somewhat bearish tone” to it, wrote analysts at JBC Energy, a Vienna-based consulting firm.
“What we mean by that is that there was a build in the aggregate volume of stored crude and refined products of close to 3.5 million barrels and maybe more importantly a large jump in the implied crude supply metric,” they said. “After having averaged below 10.5 million barrels a day for nine consecutive weeks, the 1.7 million barrel a day leap higher is a first warning sign that the narrative of only a very shallow rebound due to shut-in barrels returning to market still cannot be taken for granted,” they wrote.