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Crude futures fall after strong build in U.S. oil products stocks
Published at 18/07/2019 at 01:58

TOKYO, July 18 (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Thursday, extending declines into a fourth day, after official data showed U.S. stockpiles of products like gasoline rose sharply last week, suggesting weak demand during the peak driving season.

Brent crude futures were down 15 cents, or 0.2%, at $63.51 a barrel by 0044 GMT. They fell 1.1% on Wednesday.

U.S West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 26 cents, or 0.5%, to $56.52. The U.S. benchmark dropped 1.5% in the previous session.

While data on Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a larger-than-expected drawdown in crude stockpiles last week, traders focussed on large builds in refined product inventories dragging prices down.

"Oil markets are very heavy under the weight of a counter-seasonal build in gasoline inventories, which is typically a harbinger of worse things to come," said Stephen Innes, managing partner at Vanguard Markets.

"Gasoline consumption is painfully weak given U.S. consumers are in peak driving season," he said.

U.S. crude inventories fell 3.1 million barrels, the EIA said, more than analysts' forecasts for a decrease of 2.7 million barrels.

However, gasoline stocks rose 3.6 million barrels, compared with analysts' expectations in a Reuters poll for a 925,000-barrel drop. Distillate stockpiles grew by 5.7 million barrels, much more than expectations for a 613,000-barrel increase, the EIA data showed.

Crude production was disrupted last week by Storm Barry, which came ashore on Saturday in central Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane, the first major storm to hit the U.S. Gulf of Mexico this season.

More than half of daily crude production in the Gulf of Mexico remained offline by Tuesday, as most oil companies were re-staffing facilities to resume production.

The market also shrugged of another incident involving a tanker in the Middle East amid tensions between the United States and Iran.

U.S. officials say they are unsure whether an oil tanker towed into Iranian waters was seized by Iran or rescued after facing mechanical faults as Tehran asserts, creating a mystery at a time of high tension in the Middle East.

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; editing by Richard Pullin)

((aaron.sheldrick@thomsonreuters.com; 81-3-6441-1320; Reuters Messaging: aaron.sheldrick.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))