Crude oil prices lower for a third day in early trading

Oil Slides on Disappointing U.S. Data After Hitting Two-Month High

Still, some analysts were relieved that United States crude oil inventories only rose by 1.3 million barrels in the week to February 1, according to the EIA, compared with expectations for an increase of 2.2 million barrels.

Oil steadied near $54 a barrel as a decline in American fuel inventories signaled that demand remains healthy despite ongoing concerns about the global economy.

Oil companies still scrambling to find alternative supplies of heavy crude - and raising the specter of production cuts - have privately argued the administration has not found the right balance nor approved options that would help relieve pressure on refineries.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $55.13 per barrel, down 13 cents, or 0.24 percent, from their last settlement. That focuses yet more attention on the outcome of U.S.

U.S. crude oil inventories climbed by 1.3 million barrels in the week that ended February 1 to 447.21 million barrels, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed on Wednesday.

Crude futures earlier posted around two-month highs. While sanctions on Venezuela and Iran are supportive of prices, investors are wary before U.S.

The producers known as OPEC+ started cutting production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) from last month to avert a new supply glut, and OPEC has delivered nearly three quarters of its pledged cuts already, a Reuters survey showed last week.

WTI prices were $46.54 per barrel at the start of the year, rising to current levels in part on geopolitical concerns about Venezuela, as well as on the possibility of an economic slowdown in China.

Following a USA decision to impose sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry last week, Guaido and the Trump administration have sought to appoint a new board of directors for Citgo.

Supply cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies since January have been supporting prices.

The European Union is considering imposing more sanctions on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro but has not discussed an oil embargo, Malta's foreign minister said on Monday.

Total products supplied over the last four-week period averaged 21.2 million barrels per day, up by 2 percent from the same period a year ago.

Market participants are also watching for developments surrounding the U.S.

Worries about weaker global economic growth and the U.S.

"The market is being boosted by optimism over the higher-level trade talks between the United States and China that were completed on January 31".

U.S. President Donald Trump last week said he would meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in the coming weeks to try to settle the dispute.

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