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Crude oil futures slid below $52 a barrel today as supply concerns ahead of winter eased after an unexpectedly high rise in U.S. inventories.

In mid-afternoon European electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude for December was trading at $51.61, or 85 cents lower than its overnight close. It briefly fell to an intraday low of $51.29 -- its lowest level since it briefly touched $51.50 on Oct. 13.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Wednesday that crude supplies increased by 4 million barrels to 283.4 million barrels last week, about double the increase Wall Street was expecting.

Washington's inventory of distillate fuel, which includes heating oil and diesel, contracted by 2.4 million barrels to 116.6 million barrels, or 12 percent lower than a year ago. And unlike in previous weeks, the market failed to react to the sixth straight week of drops in distillates.

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