Energy Economy

Crude Price Jumps Higher Even as Stockpiles Rise

Source: Thinkstock
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories increased by 4.8 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 471.4 million barrels, the 11th consecutive week of a higher total than at any time in at least 80 years.

Crude prices gave up more than $4 a barrel last week when it became clear that the conflict in Yemen would not have a significant impact on supply. A potential agreement with Iran — which is still being negotiated — could cause prices to drop sharply, if traders expect supply to increase quickly and sharply.

Total gasoline inventories decreased by 4.3 million barrels last week, but remain well above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the EIA’s measure of consumption) averaged about 9 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 1.9% compared with the same period a year ago.

Distillate inventories increased by 1.3 million barrels last week and remain in the lower half of the average range. Distillate product supplied averaged more than 3.8 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 1.3% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged about 4.9 million barrels a day last week, about 100,000 barrels a day higher compared with the prior week’s production.

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Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories rose by 5.2 million barrels, gasoline inventories fell by 4.1 million barrels and distillate inventories rose by 18,000 barrels in the week ending March 27. For the same period, analysts had estimated an increase of 4.6 million barrels in crude inventories, a drop of 900,000 barrels in gasoline stockpiles and a decline of 300,000 barrels in distillate inventories.

Before the EIA report, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for May delivery was trading up about 0.8% at around $48.00 a barrel Wednesday morning. The WTI price rose to around $48.30 (up about 1.5% for the day) immediately after the report was released. The 52-week range on WTI futures is $44.03 to $98.87.

For the past week, crude imports averaged over 7.3 million barrels a day, down by 44,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 89.4% of capacity, with daily input of more than 15.7 million barrels, about 198,000 barrels a day above the previous week’s average. Refinery utilization is picking up following seasonal maintenance and turnaround.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.407, down from $2.421 a week ago and from $2.414 a month ago. Last year a gallon of regular cost $3.556 on average in the United States.

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Here is a look at how share prices for two exchange traded funds reacted to this latest report.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up about 2.2%, at $17.20 in a 52-week range of $15.61 to $39.44. The low was set earlier Wednesday.

The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 0.6%, at $33.94 in a 52-week range of $31.51 to $58.01.

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