Oil's Arrow Points Down on Sliding Equities, Rising Stocks

NYMEX oil futures retreated Wednesday as investors were spurred away from risky commodities by a surging greenback, bearish inventory data for crude stocks and rising concerns over the euro zone's fiscal health.

Tumbling alongside equities, the price of light, sweet crude oil for May delivery ultimately settled in negative territory at $80.61 a barrel, pressured by the dollar's gains on the session and the EIA's confirmation of an additional build in crude stocks in the week to Mar. 19.

Specifically, crude oil stocks added some 7.3 million barrels to inventory, in line with the API's earlier estimate of a 7.5 million-barrel build.

NYMEX gasoline futures also booked a loss for Wednesday's session, closing down to $2.22 a gallon, despite a larger-than-expected drawdown in both gasoline and distillates by 2.7 million barrels and 2.4 million barrels, respectively.

Today, the broader financial market's deficit concerns were stoked after Portugal's credit rating was taken down a notch. Investors have been keeping close watch on Europe in recent months as both Portugal and Greece have unveiled escalating debt.

With little impetus to push higher amid sovereign debt woes, all three major U.S. stock indexes -- the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq -- closed on the downside Wednesday.

On the domestic energy front, natural gas spot prices at the Henry Hub also inched lower to $4.11 Mcf.