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Surging U.S. crude supplies, and OPEC's forecast of sharply lower demand for its output combined to drive oil futures sharply lower Wednesday, raising the stakes for $50-a-barrel oil before the end of the year.
Oil has cratered more than 42 percent from its June highs, as increased U.S. oil production added to world supplies and global demand slipped. West Texas Intermediate futures sank another 4.4 percent Wednesday to a fresh five-year low just shy of $61 per barrel, and Brent lost another 4 percent to $64.19 per barrel.
New data from the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday showed a surprise build in U.S. oil supply for the week of Dec. 4. Crude stockpiles rose by 1.5 million barrels to 380.8 million barrels, while traders expected a drop in supply. The bearish report also showed a sharp build in U.S. gasoline stocks of 8.2 million barrels, meaning less oil will be required for fuel.
OPEC's loose alliance to hold down production showed some fissures Wednesday, when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed falling oil prices on "treachery," in an apparent dig at rival Saudi Arabia, according to news wires. Iranian officials, at the cartel's meeting last month, spoke publicly in support of the Saudi-led effort to hold production levels in the face of falling prices, even though they had sought a production cut.