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Crude oil falls on talk of rise in US stocks

CRUDE oil fell for a sixth day in New York, its longest decline in a month, on speculation that slumping demand caused United States crude inventories to accumulate.

US crude stockpiles probably gained 2.25 million barrels in the week ended Friday, according to a Bloomberg News survey before an Energy Department report today. That would be the 14th gain in 16 weeks. The US economy will contract 1.5 percent in 2009, a monthly poll of economists showed.

"There is limited demand for oil at the moment, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a continuation of the trend of rising inventories," said Toby Hassall, an analyst with Commodity Warrants Australia Ltd in Sydney. "We've got a pretty strong incentive to store oil with the way the forward curve is structured at the moment."

Crude oil for February delivery fell as much as US$1.49, or 4 percent, to US$36.10 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oil contracts, down 25 percent in six days, traded for US$36.52 a barrel at 9:08am London time.

Futures, down 61 percent from a year ago, declined US$3.24 to US$37.59 a barrel on Monday, the lowest settlement since December 24. Oil for February delivery is now at a 35-percent discount to the December future, a market situation known as "contango," where traders fetch higher prices for contracts for later delivery.

Brent crude oil for February settlement fell as much as US$1.07, or 2.5 percent, to US$41.84 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe Exchange. It was at US$42.24 a barrel at 9:08am London time.

US crude-oil and fuel stocks probably rose last week as refineries cut operating rates and the recession curbed consumption, a Bloomberg News survey of analysts showed.

Crude-oil stockpiles probably rose 2.25 million barrels in the week ended Friday from 325.4 million the week before, according to the median of eight analyst estimates before the department report this week.

Gasoline stocks probably rose 1.5 million barrels from 211.4 million, the survey showed. Supplies of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, added 1.5 million barrels from 137.8 million.


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