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Oil Prices Retreat Amid Fears Over SPR Release

Oil prices fell about 1 percent on Wednesday after U.S. gasoline stocks fell more than expected last week, heightening pressure on the Biden administration to release oil from emergency reserves.

Benchmark Brent crude futures dropped 74 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $81.69 per barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 79 cents, or 1 percent, at $78.95.

The American Petroleum Institute reported late Tuesday that crude inventories rose by 655,000 barrels for the week ended Nov. 12, compared to the 1.4-million barrel build that analysts had predicted.

At the same time, gasoline stocks fell by 2.8 million barrels for the week on top of the previous week's 552,000-barrel draw.

The bigger-than-expected drawdown fueled speculation about whether the Biden administration will tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in an effort to lower oil and gasoline prices.

U.S. lawmakers, however, have mixed views on whether it is needed.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said late on Tuesday he did not agree with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's call for tapping the SPR to lower gas prices, saying he believed the reserve was there to fill a crude oil supply gap in times of emergency.

Traders await more cues from the Energy Information Administration report, due out later in the day.

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