Crude Oil Inventory Report Supports Higher Prices

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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 3.3 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory to 361.4 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 1.9 million barrels last week, but they remain well above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the EIA’s measure of consumption) averaged 8.4 million barrels a day over the past four weeks. That was down about 1% from the same period a year ago.

Distillate inventories fell by 700,000 barrels last week and remain well below the lower limit of the average range. Distillate product supplied averaged around 4 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 8.6% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production totaled 4.6 million barrels a day last week, about equal with the prior week.

Tuesday evening, the American Petroleum Institute reported that crude inventories rose by 2.1 million barrels in the week ending February 7, together with a decline of 479,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and a decrease of 1.45 million barrels in distillate supplies. For the same period, Platts estimated a rise of 2.5 million barrels in crude inventories, no change in gasoline inventories and a decrease of 2.5 million barrels in distillate inventories.

Crude prices closed at $99.94 on Tuesday and were trading up about 1.2% before the EIA report at around $101.18 a barrel. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price fell to around $100.76 shortly after the report was released.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 7.9 million barrels a day, up about 1 million barrels a day from the previous week. Refineries were running at 87.1% of capacity, with daily input of 15.2 million barrels a day, about 166,000 barrels a day lower than the previous week’s total.

According to AAA, the current average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $3.317, up from $3.272 a week ago and $3.312 a month ago. Last year a gallon of regular cost $3.604 on average in the United States.