U.S. crude prices retreated after coming within striking distance of their 2017 high on Wednesday, raising questions about whether a rally that started in June has reached its peak.
On the one hand, the trend of future oil prices suggests that a prolonged global glut of crude is coming to an end. But at these elevated levels, prices are also susceptible to disappointing data points and profit-taking as traders look to cash in on recent gains.
Crude futures shed more than $1 a barrel on Wednesday after government data showed U.S. crude stockpiles declined less than earlier industry figures indicated. The Energy Department's report also showed U.S. oil exports hit an all-time high, while the nation's production crept toward record levels.
U.S crude 4-day performance
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude prices ended the session down 8 cents at $54.30 a barrel and were trading near that level on Thursday. International benchmark Brent crude settled 45 cents lower at $60.49 and was slumping toward $60 a barrel on Thursday.