Oil futures fell slightly Wednesday morning from the strong gains of the day before, as the market awaited weekly crude inventory data and news on the latest European debt bailout efforts.
At 9 a.m. EST, light, sweet crude for November delivery fell 93 cents, or 1.1%, to $83.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE Futures Europe exchange fell 81 cents, or 0.8%, to $106.33 a barrel.
Crude futures rose more than 5% to $84.45 Tuesday on hopes for a resolution to the European debt crisis, but "markets seem to have gotten back a sense of reality today," JBC said in a research note Wednesday morning, noting that persistently high U.S. unemployment and weak consumer confidence data may be putting a damper on the market.
"The bigger issue for the crude markets is really what's going to be the shape of the U.S. and global economy, and the data remains pretty mixed," said Bill O'Grady, the chief market strategist of Confluence Investment Management. "It's mostly weak, but not bad enough to where you can say 'Oh my God, for sure we're in a downturn.'"
Data for the week ended Sept. 23 from the Energy Information Administration, the statistical and analytical wing of the U.S. Energy Department, are scheduled for release at 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday.
The American Petroleum Institute released its own weekly survey late Tuesday, finding crude stocks rose by 568,000 barrels, distillate stocks declined 223,000 barrels, gasoline stocks rose by 4.6 million barrels and refinery capacity utilization rose 1.5 percentage points to 85.9%.
A survey of 15 analyst forecasts by Dow Jones Newswires found crude is expected to rise by 700,000 barrels, gasoline is expected to rise by 900,000 barrels, distillates are expected to rise by 100,000 barrels and refinery capacity is expected to increase by 0.7 percentage point to 87.6% of capacity.
Front-month October reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, was down 2.22 cents, or 0.8%, to $2.6733 a gallon. October heating oil fell .08 cents, or 0.03%, to $2.8758 a gallon.