Oil prices in 2013
Workers adjusting the valves of oil pipes at an oilfield in Iraq

Oil futures headed marginally higher on Wednesday (15 February), after official US crude inventory data did not prove to be quite as alarming as some had feared.

In its weekly market assessment, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude stockpiles rose by a further 9.5 million barrels in the week ending 10 February.

While, the figure was higher than the 3.7 million barrel build-up expected by analysts, the headline number was actually lower than the American Petroleum Institute's (API) estimate of 9.9 million barrels published overnight.

In response, at 3:50pm GMT, the Brent front month futures contract was up 0.39% or 22 cents to $56.19 per barrel, while the West Texas Intermediate was 0.47% or 25 cents higher at $53.45 per barrel.

Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, said crude oil prices have been on a rollercoaster ride to absolutely nowhere in recent weeks. "It appears as though the buying and selling pressure is finely balanced. Bullish speculators are encouraged to remain in the game because of Opec's efforts to reduce supply. Bearish traders are encouraged by signs of renewed rise in oil production in the US.

"As a result, oil prices didn't move much in response to today's inventory data as they were already in retreat in reaction to overnight data."

Meanwhile, with much of the market expecting higher US production, the EIA said tight oil production stateside will increase to more than 6 million bpd in the coming decade, making up most of total American oil production.

"After 2026, tight oil production remains relatively constant through 2040 in the Reference case as tight oil development moves into less productive areas and as well productivity decreases. Side cases with different resource and technology assumptions result in different tight oil and total US oil production projections."

Away from the oil market, precious metals continued to alternate between modest upticks and declines as the dollar saw mixed trading. At 3:51pm GMT, the Comex gold futures contract for April delivery was a mere 0.06% or 70 cents higher at $1,226.10 an ounce, while spot gold was 0.17% or $1.96 lower at $1,225.53 an ounce.

Concurrently, Comex silver was up broadly flat at $17.89 an ounce, while spot platinum was 0.27% or $2.73 lower at $999.02 an ounce.