Oil trades near 12-year low as U.S. supplies seen expanding glut

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HONG KONG (Jan 20): Oil traded near the lowest close in more than 12 years before weekly U.S. government data forecast to show crude stockpiles expanded, exacerbating a global glut.

Futures were little changed in New York after dropping 3.3 percent Tuesday to the lowest level since September 2003. Stockpiles probably increased by 2.75 million barrels last week, according to a Bloomberg survey before a report from the Energy Information Administration Thursday. Markets could “drown in oversupply,” sending prices even lower as demand growth slows and Iran boosts exports, according to the International Energy Agency.

Crude is down 23 percent this year amid volatility in Chinese markets and speculation the removal of restrictions that capped Iran’s crude sales will help to prolong a worldwide oversupply. Bank of America Corp. said Tuesday that it has set aside $500 million to cover potential losses as its energy borrowers struggle to stay afloat with oil below $30 a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate for February delivery, which expires Wednesday, was 12 cents higher at $28.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 7:21 a.m. Hong Kong time after closing at $28.46. Monday’s transactions were booked with Tuesday’s because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The more-active March future rose 13 cents to $29.70.

Brent for March settlement gained 21 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $28.76 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange on Tuesday. The European benchmark crude ended the session at a discount of 81 cents to WTI for March.