Oil has fallen sharply this month amid concern that the ongoing rebound in U.S. shale production.


Oil prices extended during North American morning hours on Wednesday, plunging to a fresh four-month low after data showed that U.S. crude supplies rose more than expected last week, underlining concerns over a global glut. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that crude oil inventories increased by 5.0 million barrels. million 4.5 of supply-increase a reported Tuesday late Institute Petroleum American the while barrels, 2.8 gain crude-stock expected>

Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the key delivery point for Nymex crude, increased by 1.4 million barrels last week, the EIA said.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 533.1 million barrels as of last week, which the EIA considered to be at the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

The report also showed that gasoline inventories declined by 2.8 million barrels, compared to expectations for a drop 2.0 million barrels.

For distillate inventories including diesel, the EIA reported a drop of 1.9 million barrels.

The Crude Oil May contract lost 99 cents, or around 2.1%, to $47.24 a barrel by 10:34AM ET (14:34GMT), after falling to $47.08 earlier, a level not seen since November 30. Prices were at around $47.68 prior to the release of the inventory data.

The U.S. benchmark settled lower for the third session in a row on Tuesday as the market weighed rising U.S. drilling and growing stockpiles against efforts by major producers to cut output to reduce a global glut.

Elsewhere,Brent oil for May delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London sank $1.04 to $49.90 a barrel. The global benchmark touched $49.73 earlier, its cheapest since November 30.

Oil has fallen sharply this month amid concern that the ongoing rebound in U.S. shale production could derail efforts by other major producers to rebalance global oil supply and demand.

OPEC agreed in November last year to curb its output by about 1.2 million barrels per day between January and June. Russia and 10 other non-OPEC producers have agreed to jointly cut by an additional 600,000 barrels per day.

In total, they agreed to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels per day to 32.5 million for the first six months of the year, but so far the move has had little impact on inventory levels.

OPEC's latest monthly report showed global oil stocks in January rose to 278 million barrels above the five-year average.

OPEC members increasingly favor extending the output curb beyond June to balance the market, sources within the group said, although they added that this would require non-OPEC members such as Russia to also step up their efforts.

Kuwait is scheduled to host a ministerial meeting on March 26 comprising both OPEC and non-OPEC members to review compliance with the output agreement and to discuss whether cuts would be extended beyond June.