Crude Price Slumps 2% Following Large Supply Increase

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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 2.3 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 525.9 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains at historically high levels for this time of year, according to the EIA.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories increased by 940,000 barrels in the week ending August 26. API also reported gasoline supplies decreased by 1.6 million barrels and distillate inventories saw a jump of 3 million barrels. For the same period, analysts surveyed by Platts had estimated an increase of 600,000 barrels in crude inventories, along with a drop of 1.1 million barrels in gasoline supplies, and no change in distillate inventories.

Total gasoline inventories fell by 700,000 barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remain well above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s measure of consumption) averaged about 9.7 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 1.8% compared with the same period a year ago.

Since posting a low of around $40 a barrel in early August, crude prices had risen by nearly $10 a barrel by last Friday to close the week at $49.11. Much of that gain resulted from talk about a potential freeze on production from OPEC members and, perhaps, Russia. But crude dropped nearly $2 a barrel on Monday before gaining some of that back on Tuesday. And the loss was mounting in Wednesday trading.

Lower demand for crude oil last week may be due in part to flooding in the Gulf Coast region that caused disruption at several refineries. The lower refinery runs may naturally have led to lower refinery runs and reductions in gasoline inventories.

The Labor Day holiday also marks the end of the summer driving season in the United States, and that combined with the beginning of the refinery turnaround and maintenance season also contributes to lower demand for crude.

Oil company executives continue to expect a period of volatility in crude prices, partly due to uncertainty about production from OPEC member nations and partly due to the amount of time it will take for the oil market to rebalance. Optimistic estimates see the market returning to supply-demand balance by the end of this year; less optimistic estimates expect the rebalancing to drag on through next year before reaching a balance in 2018.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for October delivery traded down about 0.8% at around $46.00 a barrel and fell to around $45.55 shortly after the report’s release. WTI crude settled at $46.35 on Tuesday. The 52-week range on October futures is $33.28 to $54.34.

Distillate inventories increased by 1.5 million barrels last week and remain near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged about 3.8 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 1.7% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged about 5 million barrels a day last week, up about 200,000 barrels a day compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged over 8.9 million barrels a day, up by 275,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 92.8% of capacity, with daily input averaging over 16.6 million barrels, about 64,000 barrels a day less than the previous week’s average.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.223, up from $2.189 a week ago and up nearly nine cents compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.471 on average in the United States.

Here is a look at how share prices for two blue-chip stocks and two exchange traded funds reacted to this latest report.

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) traded down about 0.8%, at $86.83 in a 52-week range of $71.51 to $95.55. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up more than 16% and is down about 15.2% since August 2014, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded down about 1%, at $100.72 in a 52-week range of $74.31 to $107.58. As of Tuesday’s close, Chevron shares have added more than 18% over the past 12 months and trade down nearly 21% since August 2014.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded down about 2.2%, at $10.49 in a 52-week range of $7.67 to $16.20.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded down about 1.4% to $27.82, in a 52-week range of $20.46 to $32.78.