US oil closes at near 2-month low, down 4.8 pct, as stock draw disappoints

An oil pumpjack operates near Williston, North Dakota.
Andrew Cullen | Reuters

Oil prices fell nearly 5 percent on Thursday, reversing early gains after the U.S. government reported a weekly crude draw that disappointed market bulls expecting larger declines.

U.S. commercial crude stockpiles fell by 2.2 million barrels to a total of 524.4 million in the week through July 1, the Energy Information Administration reported.

The EIA's figure came in just below the decline of 2.3 million barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll but far less than the 6.7 million-barrel draw reported by trade group the American Petroleum Institute late Wednesday.

The EIA also reported a gasoline draw just about a third of market expectations, sending gasoline futures tumbling as well.

Bigger problems than Brexit for oil: Kilduff

"Expectations were high for this report, and they were dashed," said John Kilduff, partner at New York energy hedge fund Again Capital.

Brent crude oil futures fell $2.37, or 4.8 percent, to $46.43 per barrel on Thursday. It rose 1.6 percent earlier to a session high of $49.59.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) settled at $45.14 a barrel, down $2.29, or, 4.83 percent, breaking through the $46 resistance level, according to Kilduff. WTI also settled at its lowest level since May 10.

The next resistance levels are $43 to the downside and $47.50 on the upside, he said.

Oil prices have risen more than 70 percent from 12-year lows of around $27 for Brent and $26 for U.S. crude in the first quarter, driven by unexpected crude supply outages from Nigeria to Canada.

U.S. gasoline inventories also fell less than expected in the government report, slipping 122,000 barrels versus forecasts of 353,000 barrels, adding to fears of a glut of the motor fuel despite the busiest season for driving.

Vessels carrying gasoline-making components could not unload at the New York Harbor delivery point for futures this week because of lack of space.

After the data, U.S. gasoline futures fell 4 percent to about $1.37 per gallon.

Preliminary weekly data showed U.S. production fell by 194,000 barrels per day, primarily due to declines in Alaska's output, EIA reported. Monthly data that operates on a significant lag is more accurate.

Meanwhile, the EIA data showed gasoline supplies rose by 46,000 barrels per day to more than 9.75 million barrels per day.

Offshore oil platforms are seen at the Bouri Oil Field off the coast of Libya.
Darrin Zammit Lupi | Reuters

However, traders warned that an economic slowdown and a glut in supplies of refined products were weighing on oil markets.

In Nigeria, Shell lifted force majeure on exports of Bonny Light crude, leaving just two grades from that country under force majeure. Libya's export terminals, shut since 2014, could reopen, potentially restoring 600,000 barrels per day of crude export capacity.

Fears of economic turmoil after Britain's exit from the European Union are also hanging over global markets. German industrial output plunged unexpectedly in May for its steepest monthly drop since August 2014.

Asian crude demand is slowing and by some measures falling, which market participants said could be due to an economic slowdown and perhaps even more permanent structural changes.

"Growth is slipping again ... and things don't seem quite so rosy," HSBC said in a note to clients.

— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.