Crude Oil Price Rises as Inventory Plunges

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning, showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories dropped by 7.2 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 483.4 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remained in the upper half of the average range for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories plunged by 10.23 million barrels in the week ending July 21. API also reported gasoline supplies increased by 1.9 million barrels and distillate inventories fell by 100,000 barrels. For the same period, an S&P Global Platts survey of analysts had consensus estimates for a decrease of 2.5 million barrels in crude inventories, a decrease of 1.25 million barrels in gasoline inventories and a drop of 800,000 barrels in distillate stockpiles.

Total gasoline inventories decreased by 1 million barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remain in the upper half of the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced about 10.4 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, up by about 300,000 barrels a day compared to the prior week. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s proxy for demand) averaged over 9.7 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, down by 0.3% compared with the same period a year ago.

Crude oil prices turned sharply higher earlier this week on a report that Saudi Arabia has committed to cut its crude exports to 6.6 million barrels a day, that Nigeria has agreed to cap production at 1.8 million barrels a day and that global demand is likely to rise.

The Saudi export cut gets the most attention because it is about 600,000 barrels a day below the country’s monthly average for the first six months of 2017. But Saudi exports fall every summer because the country needs to burn more oil to generate electricity to run air conditioners in the blistering summer heat. As we noted on Monday, Saudi Arabia consumes about 3.37 million barrels of oil a day to generate electricity and power its automobiles. Add that to its self-imposed 6.6 million barrel a day export quota and the total of 9.97 million barrels a day is still below the country’s production quota of 10.05 million barrels a day.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for September delivery traded up about 0.6% at around $48.13 a barrel, and it jumped to around $48.43 (up about 1.1 %) shortly after the report’s release. WTI settled at $47.89 on Tuesday and opened at $48.51 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on September futures is $42.29 to $58.36.

Distillate inventories decreased by 1.9 million barrels last week and remain near the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged over 4.2 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 13.2% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged over 5.1 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 million barrels a day, up by about 48,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 94.3% of capacity, with daily input averaging 17.3 million barrels a day, about 166,000 barrels a day more than the previous week’s average. Analysts were looking for refinery usage of 94.5% for the week.

Crude oil exports rose to 1.03 million barrels a day last week, up 302,000 barrels over the prior week and 353,000 barrels more than at the same time last year. The cumulative daily average export total last week was 768,000 barrels a day, up from 446,000 barrels a day in the same week a year ago, an increase of 72.4%.

Refining runs of 17.3 million less imports of 8 million and domestic production of 9.41 million barrels a day still imply that stockpiles are not changing fast enough to push prices a lot higher before the summer driving season ends.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.282, up about a penny and a half from $2.268 a week ago and up two cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.154 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 0.5%, at $80.69 in a 52-week range of $79.26 to $93.22. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down about 12%.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 1.1%, at $105.54 in a 52-week range of $97.53 to $119.00. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are up nearly 3% over the past 12 months.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up about 1.6%, at $9.97 in a 52-week range of $8.65 to $12.00.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 0.6%, at $25.13 in a 52-week range of $23.63 to $36.35.