Crude oil futures settled flat after choppy trading on Wednesday, following a report that showed declining U.S. gasoline demand in the world’s top oil consumer and a build at the key Cushing, Oklahoma, storage hub.
In its weekly report, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude oil stocks fell by a greater-than-expected 2.07 million barrels last week, but inventories at Cushing, the delivery point for U.S. crude futures, rose 508,000 barrels. The four-week average for gasoline demand fell by 1.4 percent year-over-year.
U.S. crude failed to break through Tuesday’s lows or highs, testing resistance at both ends in what traders call an “inside day.”
“The market is rangebound here and there’s no catalyst to drive it out either way, so we’re finishing the session more or less unchanged,” said Bill Baruch, senior market strategist at iitrader.com in Chicago.
U.S. crude rose 2 cents to settle at $93.88 a barrel after settling 51 cents higher on Tuesday on stronger U.S. economic data.
Brent crude for October delivery rose by 22 cents to settle at $102.72 a barrel, after swinging by $1 between $102.05 and $103.07.
Oil benchmarks on both sides of the Atlantic have fallen by more than 10 percent since mid-June and remain on track to post a second monthly fall against a backdrop of lower U.S. imports and slowing growth in China and Europe.
Traders were watching to see whether the Buzzard oilfield in the North Sea, one of the biggest contributors to physical supplies underpinning Brent futures contracts, would return quickly after shutting again for additional maintenance.
Industry sources said the field was due to resume exports on Thursday after output was stopped for work on a drilling rig. It had restarted Monday after being shut for maintenance since July.
Global oil supplies have been ample for much of the summer, capping price gains spurred by violence in OPEC members Iraq and Libya.
Conflict with Islamic State militants in northern Iraq has not prevented oil exports from the south from holding at substantial levels, while Libya’s exports have risen despite month-long clashes between rival militias.
In Europe, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised after negotiations with Russia’s Vladimir Putin to work on a ceasefire plan to defuse the separatist conflict in the east of Ukraine.
Any significant moves toward a truce between Kiev and two rebel eastern regions could mean an eventual move toward ending sanctions on Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter.
Saudi crude exports fell in June to their lowest levels in almost three years as oil use in its power sector rose, official data showed, though industry sources say OPEC’s largest producer raised output in July.