Crude Oil Falls

Crude oil futures fell after a U.S. Energy Department report showed that inventories climbed more than forecast as fuel demand dropped.

Supplies rose 1.6 million barrels to 313.5 million barrels last week, the Energy Department said. Stockpiles were forecast to rise 1 million barrels, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts. U.S. fuel demand during the past four weeks averaged 19.1 million barrels a day, down 7 percent from a year ago.

Crude oil for December delivery fell 65 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $53.74 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices touched $53.30 today, the lowest since Jan. 23, 2007. Futures have dropped 64 percent since reaching a record $147.27 on July 11.

Gasoline inventories rose 539,000 barrels to 198.6 million barrels in the week ended Nov. 14, the report showed. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg news were split over whether supplies of the motor fuel increased or declined.

U.S. fuel demand fell 5.2 percent in the first 10 months of this year, the biggest drop since 1981, the American Petroleum Institute said in a report today.

Speculation that the recession will further curb demand is helping send prices lower. U.S. housing starts and permits for future construction both dropped to record lows in October, signs the housing downturn may extend into a fourth year.

Construction starts on housing fell 4.5 percent in October, less than economists forecast, to an annual rate of 791,000 that was the lowest since records began in 1959, the Commerce Department said in Washington. Declines in construction spending

Brent crude oil for January settlement declined 1 cent to $51.83 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange., Bloomberg
11/19/2008 12:28:55 PM