NEW YORK, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices retreated into negative territory in early Wednesday trading amid data showing important economies were still oversupplied.
Crude oil prices posted dramatic swings in the last week of trading, moving in either direction by as much as 9 percent. A rally in prices that began early Tuesday morning faded after data suggested U.S. markets were still building inventories.
Data released late Tuesday from the American Petroleum Institute show crude oil inventories grew by more than 11 million barrels for the week ending Jan. 22. An official report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration late Wednesday offers a more accurate snapshot, though inventory builds have been a consistent drag on crude oil supplies as the metric shows weak U.S. demand.
Brent crude oil prices moved lower by about 1 percent to start trading in New York at $31.49 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark for crude oil prices, was down roughly 2.4 percent to start the day at $30.71 per barrel.
Pressure from the supply side may re-emerge next week if data show a substantial build as a result of the weekend blizzard that pummeled major eastern metropolitan areas in the United States. A storm system that buried some cities under as much as 2 feet of snow had an economic impact estimated in the billions of dollars.
Lower crude oil prices have left most major energy companies with few options but to trim spending in the market downturn. So far, those cuts have yet to materialize as production declines. Crude oil production in Texas, the largest oil producer in the United States by volume, last year outpaced the previous year by 11.5 percent. Continental Resources, one of the premier players in U.S. shale, said it expected its output to decline as the year progresses, however.
Oil prices may be influenced heavily by Wednesday's meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which is expected to keep interest rates steady amid widespread market volatility. Sentiments expressed last week by the European Central Bank were credited in part for a 9 percent spike in crude oil prices.