Brent crude oil was virtually flat at $48.20 a barrel, heading for a near 10 percent fall this month.
After the API numbers, the gap between the two contracts CLc1-CLc2 narrowed to 36 cents a barrel by 5:11 p.m. EDT (2111 GMT).
Oil prices were little changed Wednesday after a mixed USA petroleum market showing an unexpected rise in crude inventories and a dip in crude production.
Genscape, a market intelligence firm, has also alluded to lower stockpiles, suggesting a draw of about 1 million barrels last week at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery point for USA crude inventories.
Oil futures tallied a loss of 24% for the third quarter, after ending Wednesday lower on the back of a report revealing the first USA crude supply increase in three weeks.
Analysts polled by Reuters said oil prices would remain depressed, forecasting an average Brent price of $58.60 a barrel in 2016, well below $62.30 expected last month.
Oil prices have been trading largely sideways this month following the turbulence of August, when markets were rattled by mounting signs of a slowdown in China, the world’s No. 2 oil consumer.
Crude inventories rose 4 million barrels to 457.9 million in the week to September 25, compared with analysts’ expectations for an increase of 102,000 barrels.Brent for November settlement climbed 14 cents to end the session at $US48.37 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. In early-June, crude production in the US peaked above 9.6 million barrels per day, its highest on record in more than 40 years.
Monday’s price falls came despite an ongoing reduction in USA drilling, which has been on the decline for four straight weeks, a sign continued weak prices were causing oil and gas producers to reduce drilling plans.
Data from Indonesia and Malaysia implied a worsening economic outlook for Southeast Asia, and Morgan Stanley said it expected “growth in ASEAN4 (Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand) will likely be lower for longer”.
China’s giant manufacturing sector is shrinking, economists say, as domestic demand falters, fanning concern that the economy may be slowing more sharply than feared. Refinery utilization fell to 89.8% last week from 90.9%.
The slumping oil and commodities markets are hitting shares of trading merchants hard. Kazakhstan’s energy minister said on Wednesday he had been approached by OPEC members to coordinate policies to stimulate oil price growth.