Crude Oil Supply Increase Stalls Price Hikes

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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 1 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory to 362.3 million barrels and remaining in the upper half of the five-year range for this time of the year.

Total gasoline inventories also increased by 300,000 barrels last week and remain well above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the EIA’s measure of consumption) averaged more than 8.3 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down about 1.1% from the same period a year ago.

Distillate inventories fell by 300,000 barrels last week, and they remain well below the lower limit of the average range. Distillate product supplied averaged more than 3.9 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 4.4% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production totaled 4.5 million barrels a day last week, down about 100,000 barrels from the prior week.

Tuesday evening, the American Petroleum Institute reported that crude inventories fell by 473,000 barrels in the week ending February 14, together with a rise of 1.4 million barrels in gasoline supplies and a decrease of 676,000 barrels in distillate supplies. For the same period, Platts estimated a rise of 1.9 million barrels in crude inventories, a decline of 1.3 million barrels in gasoline inventories and a decrease of 2.0 million barrels in distillate inventories.

Crude prices closed at $103.31 on Wednesday and were trading down about 0.2% before the EIA report at around $103.14 a barrel. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price slipped slightly to around $103.10 shortly after the report was released. Thursday morning’s report on China’s slipping manufacturing did most of the damage to the price, knocking nearly a dollar off Wednesday’s closing price for WTI in early electronic trading.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 7.4 million barrels a day, down about 500,000 barrels a day from the previous week. Refineries were running at 86.8% of capacity, with daily input of 15.2 million barrels a day, about flat with the previous week’s total.

According to AAA, the average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline now is $3.383, up from $3.327 a week ago and $3.279 a month ago. Last year, a gallon of regular cost $3.766 on average in the United States. Gasoline prices have risen every day for two weeks now, and there is no reason to think those increases will stop over the next week or so.