Oil prices sank more than $2 a barrel Wednesday on rising crude supplies in the United States, a strengthening dollar and signs that China’s energy appetite, while still growing, has its limits.
Rising interest rates, which could slow economic growth and energy demand, were also a factor. Brokers noted that technical and speculative trading magnified the selloff.
“When you run up quickly, you can also come off very quickly,” said Tom Bentz, a broker with BNP Paribas Commodity Futures in New York.
Light, sweet crude fell $2.22, or 4 percent, to settle at $53.81 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where oil futures are down nearly $4 a barrel since the intraday high of $57.60 set last Thursday.
In London, Brent crude for May delivery settled at $53.04, down $1.55 on the International Petroleum Exchange.
Oil is roughly 45 percent more expensive than a year ago but still well below the inflation-adjusted peak above $90 a barrel set in 1980.
Prices at the pump are also soaring. Nationwide, a gallon of regular unleaded averages $2.11, up 21 percent from a year ago, with half of that gain coming in the past month.
Unleaded gasoline for April delivery settled unchanged on Nymex at $1.5749 per gallon. But after markets closed, gasoline futures zoomed several cents higher in electronic trading due to an explosion at a massive BP refinery complex in Texas City, Texas.
It was not immediately clear what type of production at the 1,200-acre facility would be affected, and for how long.
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