Are Record Oil Stockpiles Still Hurting the Price of U.S. Crude?

Brent — the European benchmark for crude oil prices — fell from its nine-month high, lowering its premium to West Texas Intermediate crude for the first time in nine days. In comparison, the WTI fell below $95 per barrel for the first time since January 23.

Four straight weeks of gains gave the European benchmark its greatest increases since July, but it dropped 0.9 percent on Monday. For March settlement, Brent was down $1.33, at $117.57 per barrel, on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London. The number of futures exchanged also dropped, falling 8 percent below the 100-day average.

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In the past several days, the European benchmark has changed course, backing down from its recent gains. Futures contracts increased $1.66 to $118.90 on February 8, their highest level since last May. Along with the increase in contract prices, the spread between Brent and the U.S. benchmark, WTI, was at its widest since November 26. The gap was widened by reports from China showing that net crude imports were 24.87 million metric tons, a figure equivalent to 5.88 million barrels per day, the most since May…