Oil Prices Steady as Stockpiles Rise

Oil prices steadied on Wednesday after government data south of the border showed a surprise rise in U.S. crude inventories, though the increase was smaller than industry figures indicated.

Crude futures remained under pressure as U.S.-Chinese trade dispute threatened global oil demand, but Middle East tensions capped losses.

Brent crude futures rose mid-morning Wednesday by 18 cents to $71.42 U.S. a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down 24 cents at $61.54 U.S. per barrel, paring earlier losses.

Data released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed crude stockpiles rose by 5.4 million barrels in the week to May 10. This compared with analyst expectations for a decrease of 800,000 barrels.

Figures from industry group the American Petroleum Institute suggested U.S. inventories increased by 8.6 million barrels on Tuesday.

Oil prices have drawn support after Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday that armed drones struck two of its oil pumping stations, two days after the sabotage of oil tankers near the United Arab Emirates.

The attacks took place against a backdrop of U.S.-Iranian tension following Washington’s decision this month to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and to beef up its military presence in the Gulf in response to what it said were Iranian threats.

Elsewhere, the International Energy Agency said the world would require very little extra oil from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries this year as booming U.S. output will offset falling exports from Iran and Venezuela.

The agency also revised its forecast for growth in 2019 global oil demand 90,000 barrels per day lower to 1.3 million bpd. It said 2018 demand growth had been estimated at 1.2 million bpd.