Crude Oil Supply Drop Clips Prices

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 200,000 barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory to 360 million barrels, and they remain near the upper limit of the five-year range for this time of the year.

Total gasoline inventories also increased by 1.7 million barrels last week and remain in the upper half of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the EIA’s measure of consumption) averaged 9 million barrels a day over the past four weeks.

Distillate inventories rose by 2.6 million barrels last week and remain near the lower limit of the average range. Distillate product supplied averaged 3.7 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 8.6% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production totaled about 5 million barrels a day last week.

The American Petroleum Institute Tuesday night reported that crude inventories fell by 2.9 million barrels last week, together with a rise of 195,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and a rise of 807,000 barrels in distillate supplies. Platts estimated a drop of 2 million barrels in crude inventories, a drop of a million barrels in gasoline inventories and an increase of 800,000 barrels in distillate inventories.

Crude prices were trading higher before the EIA report at around $107.50 a barrel and fell to around $107.20 shortly after the report was released.

For the past week, crude imports averaged about 8 million barrels a day, down about 238,000 barrels a day from the previous week. Refineries were running at 92.5% of capacity, with daily input of 15.9 million barrels a day, about equal to the previous week’s total.

Crude oil prices are about flat with their level of a week ago. Price volatility continues to be more a function of the situation in Syria. The current view is that a negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria lowers the chances of disruption to the oil market, and thus prices are falling. As we have noted before, Syria’s impact on the global crude market is more political than physical; the country produces just 300,000 barrels of crude a day.

Gasoline prices rose again this week. According to the AAA Fuel Gauge report, a gallon of regular gasoline costs about $3.56 now, compared with about $3.59 a week ago. Last month the price was $3.55 a gallon, and one year ago the price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.84.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) is down fractionally at $38.32, in a 52-week range of $30.79 to $39.54.

The United States Gasoline ETF (NYSEMKT: UGA) is down about 0.6% at $58.04, in a 52-week range of $53.35 to $65.86.

The United States Brent Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: BNO) is down 0.4% at $42.87, in a 52-week range of $36.88 to $45.05. The annual high also was set last week.

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