Oil prices settled a shade firmer on Wednesday, easing from one-month highs, as support from an outage at the largest UK North Sea oilfield was offset by a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories to a record high limited price gains. News of the unplanned outage of the 180,000-barrels-per-day Buzzard field in the North Sea had already began to support prices on Tuesday. Sources said the repairs would take one to two days.
Prices, however,turned lower briefly on Wednesday after the U.S. government reported a rise in crude inventories of 1.6 million barrels last week. Analysts had expected a decrease of 435,000 barrels, and the build reported by the Energy Information Administration came as a double surprise after trade group the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a 1.8 million-barrel draw late on Tuesday. An output cut from Jan.
1 led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries helped lift prices off last year's lows but rising U.S. output and high crude stocks have limited the rally. Saudi Arabia cut the May official selling prices (OSP) for its light crude oil for Asian customers, in line with expectations, but raised the price for oil sales to the United States.