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Oil Price Settles Below $119 as Crude Stockpiles Rise

U.S. crude oil futures fell for a third day in a row on Wednesday as government data showed that crude oil stocks rose much more than expected last week.

Gasoline futures ended lower, also despite a stock draw that was larger than forecast.

Traders said that, even though gasoline demand was up slightly last week, they had expected consumption not to go up too much as there is only about a month left before the summer driving season ends.

Earlier, prices see-sawed on conflicting government and private sector data on how crude stocks shifted last week.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said domestic crude stocks fell, issuing its report five minutes ahead of Energy Information Administration data.

Front-month September crude rose more than $1 on the API data. But then the EIA reported a crude stock build at 10:35 p.m. EDT, causing prices to fall back.

U.S. light, sweet crude settled down 59 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $118.58 a barrel, trading from $117.11 to $120.49.

The session low marked the lowest price since the May 5 trough of $116.05. The front-month NYMEX record $147.27 per barrel was reached on July 11.

In London, September Brent crude dipped 70 cents, or 0.59 percent, to $117 a barrel, trading from $115.60 to $118.77.

EIA data for the week to Aug. 1 showed that domestic crude stocks rose for the first time in three weeks, by 1.7 million barrels to 296.9 million barrels, more than five times the forecast in a Reuters poll for a 300,000-barrel rise.

Crude imports rose while refinery utilization fell.

Gasoline stocks dropped for a second week in a row, by 4.4 million barrels to 209.2 million barrels, almost four times the 1.2 million-barrel drawdown forecast in the Reuters poll. Production rose, imports fell and weekly demand edged up.

"One key question is how much we're going to make out of the draw in gasoline when we only have one month left in the driving season," said Tim Evans, an analyst at Citi Futures Perspective.

Distillate stocks rose for the 13th week, by 2.8 million barrels to 133.3 million barrels. The forecast was for an increase of 2.1 million barrels.

NYMEX September RBOB ended down 0.71 cent, or 0.24 percent, at $2.9493 a gallon, trading from $2.9160 to $3.01.

September heating oil dropped 4.41 cents, or 1.34 percent, to $3.2379 a gallon, trading from $3.2110 to $3.3119.

BP said it had declared force majeure on Azeri crude shipments from Ceyhan due to an explosion on the BTC pipeline.

Crude oil and natural gas production from the Gulf of Mexico rebounded on Wednesday in the wake of Tropical Storm Edouard, the U.S. Minerals Management Service said.

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