NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Oil prices settled lower for a second straight day on Thursday (June 15), as the market was unable to rebound from Wednesday's decline on the back of a surprise build in US gasoline inventories and ongoing worries about heavy global supply.
The US dollar rose to its highest in more than two weeks, further weighing on oil by making it more expensive for buyers using other currencies.
Still, Brent crude fell to a session low of US$46.70 a barrel, its weakest since May 5 and near six-month lows. It settled down 8 cents at US$46.92 a barrel.
US crude settled down 27 cents at US$44.46, after touching a six-month low of US$44.32 a barrel.
Oil has slumped despite output cuts of 1.8 million barrels a day by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC producers including Russia. On May 25, the countries said they agreed to extend the cuts nine months through next March. Yet crude prices have slid about 12 percent since that day as other countries have boosted output.
Saudi Arabia's oil exports are expected to fall below 7 million barrels per day this summer, according to industry sources familiar with the matter, and Russian oil exports were seen as broadly flat in the third quarter.
"Libya and Nigeria have brought more oil online and that's really hindering" Opec's efforts, said Tariq Zahir, crude trader and managing member at Tyche Capital Advisors in New York.
Libya has seen major supply disruptions from protests and contract disputes, but this week the National Oil Company said production was resuming at key fields.
Recent US economic figures, including retail sales, core inflation and industrial production have all been weak, raising concerns about the trajectory of the economy.
US production is up 10 per cent over the past year to 9.33 million bpd, close to top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, crude prices fell nearly 4 per cent after US gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly and the International Energy Agency said growth in oil supply next year is expected to outpace demand even as global consumption exceeds 100 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first time.
Summer boosts gasoline demand from US drivers, yet gasoline inventories rose 2.1 million barrels last week, 9 per cent over the five-year average for this time of year, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Both Brent and US crude have given up all the gains since the initial Opec agreement in late November.
"I definitely think we're in a new trading range," said Tyche's Zahir, "Unless you get some supply disruption, I think it's going to be lower for longer."