Oil futures prices slumped again Wednesday, eroding the gains registered during a three-day rally last week and dipping below the $16 level.
The crude oil contract for delivery in March touched $15.70 a barrel before settling at $15.73, down 82 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The market reacted to a report late Tuesday showing "a strong buildup in crude stocks," said Peter Beutel, an analyst in New York with Rudolf Wolff Energy.
The American Petroleum Institute put the nation's stock of crude oil at 333.8 million barrels, up 9 million barrels from the previous week. However, Beutel said, "it shrugged off a big reduction in refinery runs."
The institute said refineries were processing 12.382 million barrels of crude a day, compared to 11.743 million barrels the previous week.
"That's a very, very substantial cut," Beutel said, which eventually should be reflected in higher prices.