Crude oil futures settle lower on larger than expected increase in U.S. crude inventories

Crude oil futures settled lower on Wednesday after data showed a larger than expected increase in U.S. crude inventories in the week ended February 23rd. Data released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed oil inventories in the U.S. rose by 4.2 million barrels last week, nearly two times the expected increase. The focus now is the upcoming meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, collectively known as OPEC+. The OPEC+ is widely expected to extend voluntary production cuts into the second quarter, and there are expectations in some sections that the cut could extend to the end of the year.

Benchmark crude oil futures for April delivery fell $0.33 or 0.42% to settle at $78.54 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for April delivery was down by $0.33 or 0.40% to $83.32 per barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange.