Larger Rise in Stockpiles Than Forecasts Weigh on Oil Prices

Oil prices fell on Wednesday as U.S. stockpiles of crude and gasoline increased, putting further pressure on futures after industrial activity in some international major crude-consuming nations has softened.

Information released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration U.S. commercial crude inventories rose by three million barrels in the week to Feb. 23 to a total of 423.5 million barrels. Analysts had expected an increase of 2.1 million barrels.

Gasoline stocks rose by 2.5 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations for a 190,000-barrel drop. EIA data also showed distillate stockpiles, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1 million barrels, versus expectations for a 709,000-barrel drop.

May Brent crude futures were down 59 cents at $65.93 U.S. a barrel mid-morning Wednesday, while the front-month April contract, which expires on Wednesday, was down 60 cents at $66.03 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude were down 53 cents at $62.49 U.S. a barrel.

Traders said oil prices declined earlier on concerns of a slowdown in the global economy after three out of the world's top consumers of crude — China, India and Japan — reported a slowdown in monthly factory activity.

China, the world's largest importer of oil, reported on Wednesday that growth in factory activity in February was at its lowest since July 2016.

In Japan, the world's third-largest economy, industrial output in January took its biggest tumble since a devastating earthquake in March 2011, highlighting a weakening in demand and a build up of inventory.

Growth in India's factory activity slowed as well to a four-month low in February as new orders eased and weighed on output, after manufacturers raised prices at the fastest pace in a year, a business survey showed on Wednesday.