MTECHTIPS:-Oil slides to 2-week low as focus shifts to U.S. stockpile data

MTECHTIPS-Oil prices fell sharply during North American morning hours on Tuesday, touching the lowest level in more than two weeks as market players looked ahead to weekly data from the U.S. on stockpiles of crude and refined products. Industry group the American Petroleum Institute is due to release its weekly report at 4:30 PM ET (21:30 GMT) later on Tuesday. Official data from the Energy Information Administration will be released Wednesday, amid forecasts for an oil-stock rise of 2.4 million barrels. Crude oil for March delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange slumped to a session low of $52.03 a barrel, a level not seen since January 20. It was last at $52.12 by 10:15 AM ET (15:15 GMT), down 89 cents, or around 1.7%, after losing 82 cents, or 1.5%, a day earlier. Elsewhere, Brent oil for April delivery on the ICE Futures Exchange in London dropped 80 cents, or about 1.5%, to $54.91 a barrel, after touching a daily low of $54.72, the weakest since January 23. The global benchmark fell $1.09, or almost 2%, on Monday, as market players continued to weigh the prospect of production cuts by major crude-producing nations against a rise in U.S. drilling. Futures have been trading in a narrow range around the mid-$ 50 s over the past month as sentiment in oil markets has been torn between hopes that oversupply may be curbed by output cuts announced by major global producers and expectations of a rebound in U.S. shale production. U.S. drilling activity has risen by more than 6% since mid-2016, taking it back to levels seen in late 2014, when strong U.S. crude output contributed to a collapse in oil prices

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