Inventory Build Smaller than Expected, Oil Fairly Static

Crude prices slid for a fourth day on Wednesday as Asia and oil producing countries in the Middle East reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases and the United States warned of an inevitable pandemic.

Brent crude fell 48 cents, or 0.8%, to trade at $54.49 U.S. per barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 15 cents, or 0.3%, to $49.75 U.S. per barrel.

Information released Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration revealed inventories for the week ending Feb. 21 increased by 500,000 barrels. Analysts had looked for a build of 1.8 million barrels.

Pandemic fears intensified as authorities around the world battled to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has now been found in about 30 countries.

World stocks tumbled for the fifth straight day on Wednesday, while safe-haven gold rose back towards seven-year highs and U.S. bond yields held near record lows after governments and health authorities warned of a possible coronavirus pandemic.

Goldman Sachs reduced its 2020 oil demand growth forecast to 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 1.2 million bpd, and lowered its Brent forecast to $60 a barrel from $63.