By Scott DiSavino
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oil futures fell near 4% on Wednesday in a wild swing, soaring close to a four-month high in early trade on an Iranian rocket attack on U.S. forces in Iraq but then retreating as the countries quickly ratcheted back tensions.
Prices fell further as it became evident that the rocket attack did not damage oil facilities, and more pressure came from a U.S. government report showing a surprise build in crude stockpiles.
"No Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime," U.S. President Donald Trump said in a White House address. He urged world powers to forge a new nuclear deal with Tehran.
Before Trump's address, prices were already retreating from overnight highs after tweets by Trump and Iran's foreign minister signaled at least temporary calm.
The global benchmark has been trending higher since hitting an October low of $56.15 per barrel; the session high was 28% above that level.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude inventories rose by 1.2 million barrels during the week ended Jan. 3. That increase surprised the market which had expected a 2.6 million barrel decrease, and contradicted preliminary industry data showing a 5.9 million barrel decline. [EIA/S] [API/S]
"A triumvirate of bearish builds in the weekly EIA reports is adding momentum to crude's overnight price reversal as fears of escalating tension are unwound," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData, noting a big drop in refinery runs, a rebound in imports and an easing of exports.
Iran's missile attack on U.S.-led forces in Iraq came hours after the funeral of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the country's elite Quds Force who was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Jan. 3.
Tehran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S.-led coalition personnel, the U.S. military said. The attacks also roiled other financial markets.
GRAPHIC: Iran fires missiles at U.S bases in Iraq, https://graphics.reuters.com/IRQ-SECURITY/0100B4VF2PF/IRAQ-SECURITY.jpg
"Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense," Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif said on Twitter. "We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression."
The United Arab Emirates' energy minister said he saw no immediate risk to oil passing through the vital gateway of the Strait of Hormuz.
GRAPHIC: Oil, gold prices retreat after initial surge following Iran's attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/7/7953/7935/MarketReaxJan82020.png
(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York, Julia Payne in London, Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Oyabashi in Tokyo and Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Kirsten Donovan/Jan Harvey/Louise Heavens/David Gregorio)
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Updated Date: Jan 09, 2020 00:08:43 IST