SINGAPORE: Oil prices edged higher today but gains were capped amid fresh worries about the global supply glut as US crude reserves soared to a record high, analysts said.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for March delivery rose seven cents to USD 44.52 while Brent crude for March gained 18 cents to USD 48.65 in mid-morning trade.
WTI dropped USD 1.78 in New York while Brent fell USD 1.13 in London after official data released yesterday showed US crude stockpiles surged by 8.9 million barrels to 406.7 million in the week to January 23.
That was the highest level since the US government began keeping weekly records in 1982.
The stockpiles data "added to the pressure on benchmark prices", said Sanjeev Gupta, head of the Asia-Pacific oil and gas practice at consultancy firm EY.
Daniel Ang, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, said the stockpile surge came as "no surprise" as refinery utilisation rates in the world's top crude consumer have been low.
However, "what is really shocking is that US production still continues to increase despite low crude prices", Ang said.
"Without a drop in US crude production, it is going to be an uphill battle for oil bulls," he added.
Oil has lost more than half its value since June last year when the commodity was sitting at more than USD 100 a barrel due to a supply glut, boosted largely by robust US shale oil production, and weak global demand.
The problem was exacerbated in November after the OPEC oil cartel insisted that it would maintain output levels despite plunging prices. The 12-nation group pumps about 30 per cent of global crude.