The prices of oil declined further today as US crude stocks increased more than expected last week.

Reuters reported that Brent crude for March delivery dropped 77 cents to $53.39 a barrel, while US crude traded 67 cents lower at $47.78 a barrel.

"Prices of Brent crude initially increased today on expectations that China’s central bank would take steps to lower its reserve requirements, potentially driving oil demand."

Data from the Energy Information Administration revealed that US crude stocks rose for the fourth consecutive week with an increase of 6.3 million barrels last week.

Analysts at ANZ were quoted by the news agency as saying: "As weak fundamentals re-emerge in crude oil markets, further downside risk to oil prices is likely to persist."

Prices of Brent crude initially increased today on expectations that China’s central bank would take steps to lower its reserve requirements, potentially driving oil demand; however prices quickly begun to fall when the Energy Information Administration data was released.

Oil prices had increased following the declining number of US oil drilling rigs.

Meanwhile, a strike by The United Steelworkers (USW) union is continuing for a fourth day at nine US oil refineries.

Royal Dutch Shell negotiators are meeting with the union to resolve the issue on new wage contracts.

The union has twice sought for yearly pay increases in addition to better health cover and a reduction in the use of non-unionised contractors.