Crude Price Soars on Massive Inventory Drawdown

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Thursday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 14.5 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 511.4 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains at historically high levels for this time of year, according to the EIA.

Wednesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories plunged by 12.1 million barrels in the week ending September 2. API also reported gasoline supplies decreased by 2.3 million barrels and distillate inventories saw an increase of 944,000 barrels. For the same period, analysts had estimated an increase of 250,000 barrels in crude inventories along with a drop of 171,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and an increase of 684,000 barrels in distillate inventories.

Total gasoline inventories fell by 4.2 million 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 over 9.6 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 3.2% compared with the same period a year ago.

At a conference in Singapore this week, the head of market research for Gunvor Group, one of the world’s largest commodity trading houses, said he does not believe that the producers meeting scheduled for later this month in Algiers will result in any agreement to freeze production. David Fyfe also noted that there’s no harm in talking:

There won’t be an agreement but it does no harm to keep talking about this because that itself is price supportive. Of course, there’s a risk of crying wolf. But at some stage it’s the law of diminishing returns when you keep talking about a production agreement and not actually reach one.

Bloomberg reports that Russian production rose above 11 million barrels a day in August, a level not seen since at least 1991. Saudi Arabia is also pumping at near-record rates and Iranian production is rising to pre-sanctions levels near 4 million barrels a day.

A freeze will not draw down the overhang in global inventories for months. A cut in production is what is called for, and no one is talking about that.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for October delivery traded up about 1.4% at around $46.15 a barrel and zoomed to around $47.15 shortly after the report’s release. WTI crude settled at $45.50 on Wednesday. The 52-week range on October futures is $33.28 to $54.34.

Distillate inventories increased by 3.4 million barrels last week and are now above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged about 3.7 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down by 0.1% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged over 5 million barrels a day last week, roughly flat compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged about 7.1 million barrels a day, down by 1.8 million barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 93.7% of capacity, with daily input averaging over 16.9 million barrels, about 315,000 barrels a day more than the previous week’s average.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.185, down from $2.223 a week ago and up more than six cents compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.391 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 up about 0.8%, at $88.94 in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up nearly 22% and is down about 14.5% since August 2014, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up 0.8%, at $103.68 in a 52-week range of $74.31 to $107.58. As of the most recent close, Chevron shares have added more than 34% over the past 12 months and trade down nearly 23% since August 2014.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up around 3.8%, at $10.93 in a 52-week range of $7.67 to $16.20.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 1.8% to $28.51, in a 52-week range of $20.46 to $32.78.