Stockpiles Rise Sharply, Oil Drops for 3rd Straight Day

Petroleum prices fell for a third consecutive day on Wednesday after data showed U.S. inventories rose more than expected. However, at the same time, crude was still on track for its biggest gain in January in five years.

Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 42 cents at $68.60 U.S. a barrel Wednesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures were down 48 cents at $64.02 U.S.

Data released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) revealed that U.S. commercial crude stockpiles rose by 6.8 million barrels in the week through Jan. 26, compared with analysts' expectations for a 100,000-barrel rise in an economist poll.

The official government figures were more than double the 3.2-million-barrel build reported by the American Petroleum Institute late on Tuesday.

Inventories tend to rise in January, but this year they have fallen by more than 12 million barrels, making this the largest drop in the first month of the year in 30 years.

Gasoline stocks unexpectedly fell by two million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1.8-million-barrel gain.

EIA data also showed distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.9 million barrels, versus expectations for a 1.5-million-barrel drop.