Crude oil prices were steady on Wednesday after an industry group said U.S. stocks fell more than expected last week and overnight stronger-than-expected U.S December retail sales data boded well for demand.
The American Petroleum Institute report on Tuesday said that U.S. weekly crude stocks fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of -4.14M, from -7.31M in the preceding month. Analysts had expected crude stocks to fall -1.60M.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in March traded at USD92.79 a barrel during Asian trading, up 0.01%. New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of USD91.74 a barrel and a high of USD93.08 a barrel.
The March contract settled at USD92.75 a barrel on Tuesday.
The Commerce Department reported earlier that U.S. retail sales rose 0.2% in December, beating expectations for a 0.1% increase.
Core retail sales, which exclude automobile sales, expanded by 0.7% in December, well above forecasts for a 0.4% increase.
Energy markets applauded the news, as consumer spending drives over 70% of the U.S. economy.
Capping gains, however, were prospects that an end to an Iranian nuclear standoff may open the door to increased global supply.
Weekend talks among the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, Germany, France and Iran ended in agreement on a six-month deal that will limit advancements in Iran''s nuclear program in exchange for easing economic sanctions against Tehran starting Jan. 20.
In November, Iran pledged to eliminate its stocks of 20% enriched uranium within six months and limit the enrichment of uranium to 5%.
Trade sanctions slapped on Iran due to its alleged nuclear ambitions have taken out more than 1 million barrels of oil per day from the global market over the past two years.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for March delivery were flat, trading at USD105.30 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at USD12.51 a barrel
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