Crude prices ease further in Asia on API build in oil inventories

Crude prices fell further in Asia on Wednesday as industry data cast a shadow on U.S. demand prospects after inventories unexpectedly rose.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange crude futures for June delivery dropped 0.97% to $48.19 after the API figures. On London's Intercontinental Exchange, Brent eased 0.81% to $51.23 a barrel.

U.S. crude inventories rose 882,000 barrels at the end of last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said on Tuesday, compared to a decline of 2.3 million barrels seen and last week's figure that showed a 5.789 million barrels decline. The API estimates are followed by official figures from the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.

Distillate stocks gained 1.79 million barrels and gasoline supplies fell 1.78 million barrels. Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, fell by 540,000 barrels. Analysts expected a 1.050 million barrels decline in distillates and an 731,000 barrels dip in gasoline supplies.

Overnight, crude futures settled lower on Tuesday, as investors awaited a fresh weekly batch of U.S inventory data amid growing support from energy ministers for prolonged supply cuts to March 2018.

Investors’ optimism grew that the OPEC-led supply-cut agreement would be extended for a period of nine months, until March 2018, after Kuwait became the latest oil producing nation to support the idea of prolonged supply cuts.

Kuwait's oil minister, Essam al-Marzouq, said he supported the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia that supply cuts needed to be extended until March 2018.

On Monday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said that the deal to cut global production and rein in supply has significantly reduced inventories, but added that further cuts were needed to trim the level of inventories to the five-year average.

"There has been a marked reduction to the inventories, but we're not where we want to be in reaching the five-year average," Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday.