Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories rose by 4.3 million barrels in the week ending April 24. For the same period, analysts had estimated an increase of 2.8 million barrels in crude inventories, a rise of 300,000 barrels in gasoline stockpiles and a rise of 800,000 barrels in distillate supplies.
Total gasoline inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week according to the EIA, and remain above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s measure of consumption) averaged over 8.9 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 2.6% compared with the same period a year ago.
Late Tuesday, a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed to the Strait of Hormuz after reports that Iranian gunboats had fired shots at a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship. The Iranians made threatening moves on a U.S.-flagged cargo ship last week and tensions are running high in the Persian Gulf, especially around the Strait, the choke point through which about a sixth of the world’s crude oil travels every day.
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Other news from the Middle East Tuesday leads with new Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, replacing his younger half-brother and designated heir with his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince and foreign minister. The king also reshuffled other top level officers, among them his son Mohammed bin Salman, who was named deputy crown prince (second in line for the throne) and was already the country’s defense minister. The Saudis also revealed that they had arrested 93 people in the country who are suspected of working with the Islamic State terrorists.
Finally, and again on Tuesday, the Saudi oil minister reiterated his country’s commitment to meeting rising Chinese demand for crude. The statement sent Brent prices down slightly as it was widely interpreted to imply that the Saudis are prepared to continue battling on market share with little concern for the price.
Before the EIA report, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for June delivery was trading up about 0.6% at around $57.40 a barrel. The WTI price bounced higher to around $57.80 (up about 1.3% for the day) immediately after the report was released. The 52-week range on WTI futures is $45.93 to $98.22.
Distillate inventories decreased by 100,000 barrels last week and remain in the middle of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged about 4 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 0.2% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged over 4.8 million barrels a day last week, up slightly compared with the prior week’s production.
For the past week, crude imports averaged over 7.4 million barrels a day, down by 319,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 91.3% of capacity, with daily input of about 16.1 million barrels, about 118,000 barrels a day above the previous week’s average.
According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.563, up from $2.479 a week ago and from $2.422 a month ago. Last year a gallon of regular cost $3.693 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 the latest report.
The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up about 1.8% at $19.96 in a 52-week range of $15.61 to $39.44.
The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 0.7% at $37.82 in a 52-week range of $31.51 to $58.01.
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