Oil falls about 1 percent after surprise U.S. crude build

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil prices fell about 1 percent on Wednesday after data showed U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly rose 1.6 million barrels last week, weighing on market sentiment.

FILE PHOTO: An oil well pump jack is seen at an oil field supply yard near Denver, Colorado, U.S., February 2, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

Brent June crude futures LCOc2 settled 70 cents lower at $68.76 per barrel, while the front month May contract LCOc1, which expires on Thursday, fell 58 cents, or 0.8 percent, to settle at $69.53 a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures for May delivery fell 87 cents to $64.38 a barrel, a 1.3-percent loss.

U.S. crude stockpiles USOILC=ECI rose as net imports USOICI=ECI soared by 1.1 million barrels per day, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub for U.S crude futures USOICC=ECI also rose 1.8 million barrels, EIA said.

“Oil supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma are starting to replenish, which is bearish for prices, but they have a long way to go to near normal levels of supply,” said John Kilduff, partner at energy hedge fund Again Capital LLC in New York.

U.S. crude production also inched up last week to fresh record high at 10.433 million bpd. Output has risen by nearly 25 percent in the last two years to over 10 million bpd C-OUT-T-EIA, taking it past top exporter Saudi Arabia and within reach of the biggest producer, Russia, which pumps around 11 million bpd.

U.S. crude's discount to Brent WTCLc1-LCOc1 widened to as much as $5.22, the biggest since Jan. 24.

“Costs in the U.S. are getting to be a little bit less expensive to drill and that’s one of the aspects that is potentially driving the spread between Brent and WTI,” Mark Watkins, a regional investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management said from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Average breakeven prices to drill a new well in the U.S. range from $47 to $55 per barrel depending on the region, according to a Wednesday survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Brent prices have risen in seven out of the last nine months and have increased by more than 4 percent so far this year. Prices have also had three consecutive quarters of gains, the longest stretch since late 2010 and early 2011, after production curbs led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries since last year.

Wednesday’s price falls came despite Saudi Arabia saying it was working with Russia on a long-term pact that could extend controls over world crude supplies by major exporters for many years.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Reuters on Tuesday that Riyadh and Moscow were considering greatly extending the short-term alliance on oil curbs that began in January 2017 after a crash in crude prices, with a partnership to manage supplies potentially growing “to a 10-to-20-year agreement.”

Additional reporting by Amanda Cooper in London and Henning Gloystein in Singapore; editing by Marguerita Choy