Crude oil prices dropped off of a five-month high on Tuesday as investors awaited the Energy Information Administration's weekly inventory data. Experts are predicting a 10th straight weekly build in stockpiles.
Light sweet crude oil for June delivery dropped to $53.84, down 63 cents on the session. Prices touched as low as $53.50 earlier in the session after earlier hitting as high as $54.83.
EIA data is to be made public at 10:30 a.m. ET tomorrow. Economists expect to see a build of 2.2 million barrels in the week ended May 1.
Last week's data showed inventories remained at their highest levels in nearly 20 years at 374.7 million barrels. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased by 4.1 million barrels in the week ended April 24. Economists predicted a more modest build of 1.8 million barrels.
In economic news, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in testimony before the Joint Economic Committee that the U.S. economy has contracted sharply since last autumn, although he said that recent data suggests that the pace of contraction may be slowing.
The Fed chairman said that recent data shows some signs that the beleaguered housing market may be bottoming, but also noted that the available indicators of business investment remain extremely weak.
San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Janet Yellen will speak on the financial turmoil at the Hass Business School at the University of California-Berkeley at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management said its index of activity in the service sector rose to 43.7 in April from 40.8 in March, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a reading of 42.2.
The AAA daily fuel gauge report showed the average price of a regular unleaded gallon of gasoline was $2.079, a little above the month-ago mark of $2.04. This is still significantly lower than last year's level of $3.611.
Crude oil surged again on Monday and finished in positive territory for a fourth straight session to move above $54 a barrel amid encouraging economic news from the U.S. and China.
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