U.S. crude holds near 6-year lows on record stock build

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SEOUL (Jan 29): U.S. crude futures were trading near 6-year lows just below $44.50 a barrel in early Asian trade on Thursday, remaining under pressure after data showing U.S. crude stocks surged to their highest on record.

FUNDAMENTALS

* U.S. crude's front-month contract shed 1 cent at $44.44 a barrel as of 0000 GMT. In the previous session, it settled down $1.78, or almost 4 percent, to $44.45 a barrel. It hit a low of $44.08 before the close, the weakest since April 2009.

* Benchmark Brent crude closed down $1.13, or 2.3 percent, at $48.47, after a session low at $48.29.

* U.S. crude inventories rose by 8.9 million barrels during the week, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Analysts had expected an increase of 4.1 million barrels. The bulk of the rise, 5.5 million barrels, occurred in the Gulf Coast PADD 3 region.

* Oil booked by traders for storage at sea has reached at least 50 million barrels, industry sources said on Wednesday. The more than 50 percent fall in spot prices since June enables traders to make money by storing the crude for delivery months down the line, when prices are expected to recover.

* Barclays Plc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc issued even more bearish forecasts for oil prices on Wednesday, predicting no significant recovery in the first half of 2015. Barclays slashed its 2015 Brent crude oil price forecast to $44 a barrel from $72, while Goldman said it expected prices for West Texas Intermediate crude to trade close to $40 per barrel for most of the first half of 2015.