Oil falls on surprise US crude stocks gain

Cars lining up for regular petrol at the Costco in Beltsville, Maryland, on Dec 16, 2014. US stock index futures fell on Tuesday as a slide in the Russian rouble and crude oil prices sent traders fleeing risky assets. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Cars lining up for regular petrol at the Costco in Beltsville, Maryland, on Dec 16, 2014. US stock index futures fell on Tuesday as a slide in the Russian rouble and crude oil prices sent traders fleeing risky assets. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - US crude futures fell nearly 1 per cent on Wednesday to stay below US$56 a barrel after industry data showed stockpiles unexpectedly rose last week, and as Russia failed to halt more steep falls in the value of the rouble.

Nymex crude for January delivery was down 49 cents at US$55.44 a barrel by 2322 GMT, after settling up two cents on Tuesday as trading of expiring options helped defend the price above US$55.

On Tuesday, the contract fell by more than US$2 to an intraday low of US$53.60, the lowest since May 2009.

London Brent crude for January delivery was untraded yet, after settling down US$1.20 at US$59.86.

US crude inventories rose by 1.9 million barrels last week, compared with analysts' expectations for a decrease of 2.4 million barrels, data by the American Petroleum Institute showed after the settlement.

Petrol stocks rose by more-than-expected 2.8 million barrels, while distillate stocks unexpectedly fell, the data showed. The official data by the US Energy Information Administration is due out later in the day.

Oil prices were driven lower in early Tuesday trade as major oil producers said they were in no rush to cut production and curb a growing glut.

Russia's emergency rate hike in a failed attempt to stabilise the rouble, and a decision by Russia, the world's largest oil producer, not to cut its oil output added to the downward pressure.

US stocks fell for a third day in a volatile session on Tuesday, led by declines in consumer discretionary and technology shares, while another drop in the Russian rouble added to worries about the global economy.

The US dollar slipped against major currencies on Tuesday on expectations that the Federal Reserve would take a cautious tone on monetary policy, while a slide in oil prices pushed the Russian rouble to new lows and boosted the safe-haven yen.