Oil prices slipped below $53 on Wednesday as traders mulled Energy Information Administration data that showed another build in weekly inventories. The drop took prices away from the four-month closing high from the day before.
Crude oil for May delivery dropped to $52.77 a barrel, down $1.21. Oil slipped as low as $51.86 after touching as high as $54.18 earlier in the day.
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased 3.3 million barrels in the week ended March 20. Analysts were expecting a rise of about 1.2 million barrels. The build is the 22nd in 26 weeks.At 356.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.
Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.1 million barrels last week, and are in the upper half of the average range. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels.
The American Petroleum Institute reported Tuesday that crude oil inventories increased by 4.57 million barrels in the recent week. Gasoline inventories fell 805,000 barrels.
On the economic front, the Commerce Department released a report showing new home sales rose 4.7 percent to an annual rate of 337,000 in February from an upwardly revised January rate of 322,000. The results surprised economists, who had been expecting sales to fall to 300,000 from the 309,000 originally reported for the previous month.
Additionally, industry data released earlier showed that mortgage application volume rose over 32 percent last week, as low mortgage rates on the heels of the Fed's decision to buy Treasury securities encouraged both the purchase and refinancing of mortgages.
Earlier in the day, the Commerce Department released a report revealing durable goods orders jumped 3.4 percent in February after falling by a revised 7.3 percent in January. Economists had been expecting durable goods orders to fall by 2.5 percent compared to the 4.5 percent decrease that had been reported for the previous month.
Traders awaited the release of fourth-quarter GDP data tomorrow morning. A decline of 6.6% for the fourth quarter is predicted, compared to a 6.2% fall in the previous quarter.
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