Brent Settles Under $112; Inventory Data Weigh
Brent crude oil futures for April delivery fell 84 cents to settle at $111.87 a barrel, as investors weighed expectations that the Federal Reserve's stimulus program will be maintained against the sixth straight weekly rise in U.S. crude oil stockpiles.
The Brent crude oil contract traded between $111.65 and $113.35 during the session, ending at its lowest in about a month.
Inventories of crude oil in the United States rose by 1.1 million barrels in the week to Feb. 22, the Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report. Gasoline stocks slipped from high levels around the Gulf Coast refining center.
"The market has sold off well over the past week and it is trying to hold above its lows," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
"The draw in gasoline is providing some support for the market."
U.S. light, sweet crude gained 54 cents to $93.17, supported by the EIA's report of a 75,000 barrel decline in crude oil inventories at Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point of the benchmark contract.
Losses were limited by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's defense of the central bank's bond-buying stimulus program in Tuesday Congressional testimony. Bernanke's testimony was seen as supporting the economic recovery, which is tied to oil demand.
The oil complex has recently closely tracked U.S. equity markets before a split yesterday. The S&P 500 was up 0.8 percent on Wednesday.
Oil prices have also been supported by supply concerns due to tensions in the Middle East, and investors kept an eye on talks over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran gave an upbeat assessment of the two day talks with six world powers - the United States, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and China - that ended on Wednesday. Western officials said Tehran must start taking concrete steps to ease mounting concerns about its atomic activity.
The two sides agreed to meet again in Istanbul in March, and to resume political discussions in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in April.