Oil Surges as Crude Stockpiles Gain Less than Expected

Oil prices rebounded from earlier losses on Wednesday, after U.S. government data showed crude stocks rose less than expected and the Saudi energy minister signaled that oil producers would not prematurely end a deal to limit output.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures ended Wednesday's session up $1.41, or 2.4%, at $60.60 a barrel. Brent crude futures climbed $1.68, or 2.7% at $64.40 per barrel late Wednesday afternoon.

Data released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed U.S. crude inventories rose 1.8 million barrels last week, compared with expectations for an increase of 2.8 million barrels. Crude stocks fell again at the Cushing, Oklahoma storage hub, and have been cut in half since early November.

Refining rates fell as U.S. refiners reduce activity for seasonal maintenance. Gasoline inventories, however, rose 3.6 million barrels, more than expected.

The market bounced around earlier, losing ground after stronger-than-expected U.S. inflation figures that boosted the dollar.

But that market recovered after the Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would rather leave the oil market slightly short of supplies rather than ending too early a deal on cutting output.

OPEC and its partners, including Russia, have curbed supply since January 2017 in a bid to drain global inventories in an agreement that continues through the end of the year.

EIA data last week showed U.S. production rose to 10.27 million barrels per day last week, which, if confirmed by monthly data, would represent an all-time record for U.S. output.