Oil prices tumbled nearly 5 percent on Wednesday, as easing supply concerns sent gasoline into a tailspin that briefly forced trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange to stop.
Gasoline fell early as it looked less likely that flooding would affect refineries bordering the Mississippi River. Prices spiraled lower after U.S. inventory data showed an unexpected build in stockpiles.
Trading of crude and refined products halted after gasoline futures dropped 25 cents, the limit down, a five-minute circuit breaker aimed to calm feverish markets.
Gasoline fell further after trade resumed, breaking technical levels. Gasoline's momentum washed across the oil complex, pounding Brent again after it fell 8.5 percent last Thursday.
Oil then spiked $6 on Monday, and analysts said volatile swings were likely to continue as prices again sought equilibrium.
We are going to see more volatility until we get a few days of a range, said Carl Larry, Director of Energy Derivatives and Research, Blue Ocean Brokerage in New York.
We had looked like we were going to move higher, but today's sweeping downdraft has taken all nascent ideas of certainty out of the market.
Brent crude dropped $4.81 to trade at $112.82 a barrel at 2:29 p.m. EDT. U.S. crude traded down $5.55 to $98.33, after touching as low as $97.50. U.S. gasoline for June delivery fell 26.36 cents to $3.1161 a gallon.
Early pressure on prices came after data showed China's industrial output growth eased much more than expected in April, suggesting the world's second-biggest economy is cooling. Consumer inflation eased modestly to 5.3 percent in April from a 32-month high in March of 5.4 percent.
(Reporting by Gene Ramos, Robert Gibbons, Janet McGurty, Emma Farge, Selam Gebrekidan, Eilen Moustakis and Joshua Schneyer; Writing by Matthew Robinson; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and David Gregorio)