Oil futures lost ground Thursday, pulling back from a four-month high set the previous day that had sent the U.S. benchmark above the $60-a-barrel mark as investors reacted to an unexpectedly large fall in domestic crude inventories.
West Texas Intermediate crude for May delivery CLK9, -0.07% on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 39 cents, or 0.6%, to $59.84 a barrel, while May Brent crude LCOK9, -0.36% shed 33 cents, or 0.5%, to $68.17 a barrel.
U.S. benchmark WTI remains up more than 2% for the week. Crude pulled back Thursday in step with equities, with U.S. stock-index futures pointing to a softer start for Wall Street as investors digested the conclusion of a Federal Reserve meeting a day earlier that saw policy makers signal they would deliver no rate increases in 2019 amid concerns over global growth prospects.
The Energy Information Administration on Wednesday said U.S. crude inventories fell a sharper-than-expected 9.6 million barrels last week, while supplies of gasoline dropped 4.6 million barrels and distillates declined by 4.1 million barrels.
“Stocks normally increase at this time of the year, which makes the substantial inventory reduction all the more remarkable,” wrote analysts at Commerzbank.
“U.S. crude oil stocks meanwhile are slightly below the five-year average. The sizable inventory overhang that had still been in place until recently was thus eradicated completely. The U.S. oil market is no longer oversupplied, in other words, which should benefit WTI and result in further price convergence” with Brent futures, they said.
In other energy trade, April gasoline RBJ9, +0.04% fell 0.5 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.911 a gallon, while May heating oil HOK9, -0.60% was off 1.27 cents, or 0.6%, to $1.9976 a gallon.
April natural-gas futures NGJ19, -0.25% were off 1.5 cents, or 0.5%, at $2.805 per million British thermal units.