NEW YORK, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Crude oil prices pared early losses but still settled lower on Thursday after a government report showed the biggest build in U.S. crude inventory in at least 14 years.
The spread between WTI and global benchmark Brent <CL-LCO10=R> widened to as much as $2.53, the most since the settlement on Jan. 7, as U.S. crude tumbled more than 2 percent.
U.S. crude closed down $1.47 at $46.31. Brent closed at $48.52 a barrel after falling 51 cents.
The Energy Information Administration dropped a bombshell on the markets when it announced a 10.1 million barrel build in U.S. crude inventory, the largest weekly increase in at least 14 years.
"The magnitude of the build in crude came as a surprise," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates.
U.S. crude stocks are now at their highest level for the season in at least 80 years, according to EIA data. Traders had predicted a build of only 2.6 million barrels, according to a Reuters poll.
The inventory build included a 2.91-million-barrel rise at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point of the U.S. crude contract.
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