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Crude Plunges Below $58 a Barrel

The March contract is hit by news of another big inventory build.

Updated from 2:22 p.m. EST

Oil prices plunged to a 10-week low Wednesday as traders sold on news of another big rise in fuel inventories.

March crude, which fell nearly 3% Tuesday, was recently down another $1.97 to $57.60 on Nymex, its lowest level since late November. Natural gas, which finished Tuesday at its lowest point in a year on Tuesday, was recently losing 5 cents to $7.06 per million British thermal units.

The price of crude has fallen more than 15% this month. Gasoline futures, which fell 4 cents to $1.38 a barrel Tuesday, are at their lowest level in almost a year. The contract was unchanged Wednesday.

According to the Energy Department, U.S. crude inventories rose by 4.85 million barrels last week, roughly three times the market's expectation. Gasoline inventories rose by 2.12 million barrels, more than the 1.6-million-barrel consensus, and distillate fuels rose by 907,000 barrels.

The data continue a trend of relative plenty in energy markets, where the amount of fuel in storage is above both year-ago and average levels. The bearish implications of the supply situation have recently supplanted anxiety about Iran's nuclear ambitions in driving market sentiment.

Among energy-related stocks Wednesday, the Philadelphia Oil Services Index was down 1.5%, while the S&P Oil Index fell 0.3%. Shares of









held small losses, while



lost 1.2% and



fell 2.2%.



rose 2.7%.