Crude Oil Price Dips Slightly on Lower Inventory, but Higher Exports

Print Email

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning, showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 1.9 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 457.1 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains in the upper half of the average range for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by 6.36 million barrels in the week ending November 17. API also reported gasoline supplies rose by 870,000 barrels and distillate inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels. For the same period, analysts had consensus estimates for a decrease of 1.55 million barrels in crude inventories, a drop of 1.2 million barrels in gasoline and an increase of 740,000 barrels in distillate stockpiles.

Total gasoline inventories were unchanged last week, according to the EIA, and remain in the middle of the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced over 10.4 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, up about 500,000 barrels a day compared to the prior week. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s proxy for demand) averaged about over 9.4 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, roughly flat compared with the prior week.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for January delivery traded up about 1.5% at around $57.70 a barrel and traded flat after the report’s release but fell to around $57.45 minutes later. WTI settled at $56.83 on Tuesday and opened at $57.12 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on January futures is $43.39 to $58.21.

Next week’s OPEC meeting in Vienna could seal the deal on the direction of crude oil prices for the next year. Most analysts expect the cartel and its partners to extend their production cuts beyond the current expiration date of March 2018. An announced extension through the end of next year could push prices for WTI above $60 a barrel, territory last visited more than three years ago. The wild card in the OPEC plan is Russia which has not yet committed to the continued reductions.

Researchers at the International Monetary Fund published a working paper in January entitled “Oil Price and the Global Economy” that developed an analytical framework to explore the effects of changes in world GDP growth, the efficacy of oil consumption, and in overall oil supply. The researchers concluded:

The model shows that small shocks to oil supply or demand can result in large movements in the price of oil over time. It would not take a large shock for oil prices to return to significantly higher levels, and the long lags between oil price changes and the response of oil supply and demand to those changes can lead to cycles in oil prices in the future.

If Russia agrees to an extension to the production cuts, that could provide just the impetus necessary for a “small” shock that could send crude prices sharply higher and crimp GDP growth.

Week over week, U.S. crude oil exports rose by 462,000 barrels a day last week and U.S. production rose by 13,000 barrels a day. Exports averaged 1.59 million barrels a day last week and have a cumulative daily average for the year of 924,000 barrels a day, a 94% increase over the year-ago export total.

Distillate inventories increased by 300,000 barrels last week and remained in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged over 5.3 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 0.8% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged over 5.3 million barrels a day last week, up about 100,000 barrels a day compared to the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged about 7.9 million barrels a day, down by 25,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 91.3% of capacity, with daily input averaging over 16.8 million barrels a day, about 199,000 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 $2.526, down nearly 4 cents from $2.564 a week ago and up about 7 cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.131 on average in the United States. Thanksgiving holiday motorists are paying nearly 40 cents a gallon more for gasoline this year.

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 0.4% at $81.17 in a 52-week range of $76.05 to $93.22. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down about 6.7%.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 1%, at $116.35 in a 52-week range of $102.55 to $120.89. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are trading up about 4.1% over the past 12 months.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: USO) traded up about 0.8%, at $11.49 in a 52-week range of $8.65 to $12.00.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: OIH) traded up about 1% at $24.26 in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $36.35.