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Oil prices fall as U.S. crude inventories grow on scaled-back refinery output

Oil prices fall as U.S. crude inventories grow on scaled-back refinery output

Oil prices fell for a third straight day on Wednesday as U.S. inventories of crude rose and OPEC was expected to maintain its output for the time being.
The nation's inventories of gasoline and distillate, which includes heating oil and diesel, also grew.
Oil prices settled at a seven-month low Tuesday as traders shrugged off calls by some OPEC members for output cuts.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. said he did not expect the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to hold an emergency meeting to discuss prices ahead of its scheduled meeting on Dec. 14, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
With economic growth slowing and oil supplies rising, energy markets have become less jittery about geopolitical tensions, such as the diplomatic standoff between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. For much of the year, fear about potential sanctions against Iran, and possible retaliatory actions by OPEC's No. 2 supplier, had gripped the market.
A mild Atlantic hurricane season has also eased fears of disruptions to Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas production.
Light sweet crude for November delivery fell 68 cents to $58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
BNP Paribas Commodity Futures broker Tom Bentz said that while OPEC has not stepped in yet to stem the decline in oil prices, they could before long.
"I don't think they want to see sub-$50 oil," Bentz said. "I imagine you're going to see some OPEC action soon... The question is, will that stop the fall?"
In its weekly report, the Energy Department said U.S. inventories of crude oil rose by 3.3 million barrels last week to 328.1 million barrels, or 6.7 percent above year-ago levels.
Gasoline inventories rose by 1.2 million barrels to 215.1 million barrels, or 9.6 percent more than last year.
Distillate inventories increased by 200,000 barrels to 151.5 million barrels, 18 percent above year ago levels.
U.S. refineries ran at 89.9 percent of capacity last week, down from 92.4 percent a week earlier.
Nymex crude-oil futures have tumbled about 25 percent since a July peak above $78. They have fallen more than $4 this week, settling at $58.68 a barrel Tuesday, the lowest close since Feb. 16.
In other Nymex trading, heating oil futures rose 1.45 cents to $1.6684 a gallon while gasoline futures gained 2.13 cents to $1.4780 a gallon.
Natural gas futures rose 14.1 cents to $5.900 per 1,000 cubic feet.