Crude Oil Prices Sink on Rising Inventories

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories increased by 6.4 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory to 357.6 million barrels, and remaining in the upper half of the five-year range for this time of the year.

Total gasoline inventories also decreased by 800,000 barrels last week, but remain well above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the EIA’s measure of consumption) averaged more than 8.2 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down about 1% from the same period a year ago.

Distillate inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels last week and are well below the lower limit of the average range. Distillate product supplied averaged around 3.8 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 10.5% when compared with the same period of last year. Distillate production totaled 4.8 million barrels a day last week, about flat compared with the prior week.

Tuesday evening, the American Petroleum Institute reported that crude inventories rose by 4.8 million barrels in the week ending January 24, together with a rise of 363,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and a decrease of 1.8 million barrels in distillate supplies. For the same period, Platts estimated a rise of 2.1 million barrels in crude inventories, an increase of 1.6 million barrels in gasoline inventories and a decrease of 2.3 million barrels in distillate inventories.

Crude prices closed at $97.41 on Tuesday and were trading down nearly 1% before the EIA report at around $96.72 a barrel. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price fell to around $96.55 shortly after the report was released.

For the past week, crude imports averaged more than 8 million barrels a day, up by 504,000 barrels a day from the previous week. Refineries were running at 88.2% of capacity, with daily input of 15.4 million barrels a day, about 201,000 barrels a day higher than the previous week’s total.

Crude inventories are building again following the December declines that were related to reducing 2013 inventory taxes. According to AAA, the current average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $3.277, down from $3.283 a week ago and $3.312 a month ago. Last year, a gallon of regular cost $3.364 on average in the United States.

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