Oil prices weaken after US energy report

Crude oil prices retreated Wednesday after a US oil inventory report pointed to large increases in refined petroleum products.

Oil prices for US benchmark West Texas Intermediate settled five cents lower at $93.10 a barrel.

In London, the Brent contract for February finished at $111.76 a barrel, losing 18 cents from Tuesday.

The decline came after a weekly report by the US Energy Information Administration reported a surprisingly large increases in stocks of gasoline and distillate fuel, a category that includes home heating oil.

Gasoline stockpiles in the week ending January 4 surged by 7.4 million barrels, far higher than forecasts for a rise of 2.1 million barrels. Reserves of distillates soared 6.8 million barrels, well beyond the expected 1.4-million-barrel increase.

And US crude oil stocks grew by 1.3 million barrels, below the 2.2 million-barrel forecast according to a survey by Dow Jones Newswires.

Crude futures also fell Wednesday on lingering concerns over the US economy despite solid earnings from aluminum giant Alcoa, analysts said.

Global markets have shifted their attention from the US fiscal debate to corporate earnings to gauge the health of the world's biggest economy and largest oil consuming nation going into 2013.

"The recent fiscal cliff-inspired rally is fast becoming the 'Ghost of Christmas Past' as traders shift their focus to US corporate earnings," said Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets in Singapore.

"Solid gains notched up in the first week of the year across global markets are so far just being nibbled at by fears of disappointing fourth-quarter profits across US blue chip stocks."

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