By Amanda Cooper
LONDON (Reuters) - Oil fell on Wednesday ahead of an anticipated rise in U.S. crude inventory that could provide more evidence that demand may be slowing in spite of ongoing crude output cuts by producer group OPEC and imminent U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Brent crude futures were last down 65 cents at $77.78 a barrel by 1147 GMT, while U.S. crude futures fell 32 cents to $70.99 a barrel, leaving the spread between the two just shy of a 2015 high of $7 a barrel.
Physical crude markets are sagging under the weight of unsold barrels of oil, while the 50-percent rise in the oil price in the last year is encouraging major companies such as ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total to increase output.
"Aggregate production - both actual and projected - is growing for the majors," S&P Global Ratings said in a report published on Tuesday.
Spot crude oil cargo prices are at their steepest discounts to futures prices in years as sellers are struggling to find buyers for West African, Russian and Kazakh cargoes, while pipeline bottlenecks trap supply in west Texas and Canada.
The bottleneck in North America likely contributed to a 4.9 million barrel rise in U.S. crude oil inventories, to 435.6 million barrels, that the private American Petroleum Institute reported on Tuesday.
"The API inventory data in the U.S. fits with ... a topping pattern - or at least a decent pause - for oil prices at the moment," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.
With renewed U.S. sanctions looming against OPEC-member Iran and oil demand strong, analysts said crude markets will likely remain tight for much of the year.
Stronger oil prices are also spilling into other markets.
The International Energy Agency on Wednesday warned global demand is likely to moderate this year, as the price of crude nears $80 a barrel and many key importing nations no longer offer consumers generous fuel subsidies.
In its monthly report, the Paris-based IEA cut its forecast for global demand growth to 1.4 million barrels per day for 2018, from a previous estimate of 1.5 million bpd.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)