Oil prices were down on Thursday with a surprise increase in US crude oil stocks, signaling that oil demand could remain weak in the world’s largest oil-consuming nation.

International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $43.17 per barrel at 0626 GMT for a 0.28% decline after closing Wednesday at $43.29 a barrel.

American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was at $40.74 a barrel at the same time for a 0.39% loss after ending the previous day at $40.90 per barrel.

Commercial crude oil inventories in the US rose by 5.7 million barrels for the week ending July 3. However, the market expectation was a decline of 3.1 million barrels.

The surprise increase in crude inventories indicates that oil demand is likely to stay low for the world’s largest oil consumer for at least the third quarter or possibly until the end of the year.

On the demand side, the risks over a second wave of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to keep the outlook for global oil demand weak, and this keeps downward pressure on crude prices.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the US climbed above 3 million on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The number of new cases in the worst coronavirus-hit country soared by one million in less than a month. While the milestone of one million was reached approximately three months after the beginning of the outbreak, the second million was added only 45 days later.

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