Energy Economy

Crude Oil Price Dips After Inventory Shows Big Decline

Paul Ausick

Source: Thinkstock
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 5.5 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 450.8 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains near levels not seen at this time of year in at least the past 80 years.

Tuesday evening, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by a whopping 7.3 million barrels in the week ending August 21. For the same period, analysts surveyed by Platts had estimated an increase of 1.9 million barrels in crude inventories.

Total gasoline inventories increased by 1.7 million barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remain in the middle of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s measure of consumption) averaged 9.6 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 5.8% compared with the same period a year ago.

Crude oil has gotten pounded over the past week, dropping to below $40 a barrel for the first time in more than six years. And even though prices are low and falling, production in the Bakken shale play in North Dakota and Montana and in the Eagle Ford play in south Texas continues to rise. According Bentek, July production in the Eagle Ford totaled 1.6 million barrels a day, up about 10,000 barrels a day compared with June and about 250,000 barrels a day higher than in July 2014. In North Dakota, Bakken production rose by about 500 barrels a day to 1.2 million barrels, up about 90,000 barrels a day compared with July 2014.

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Drillers are getting more production from fewer wells by poking holes in their best prospects and by cutting drill times per well. Internal rates of return, even at these low prices, continue to be profitable.

Also note that the entire increase in crude oil inventory this week can be attributed to lower imports. Imports bounce as the onshore supply of heavier crude fluctuates. Refiners mix the heavier crude with light U.S. crudes to make their refining runs compatible with their refining equipment. A side effect is that the heavier crude lowers the cost of the feedstock.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for October delivery traded down about 0.1% at around $39.30 a barrel. The WTI price slipped to around $39.15, down about 0.4% on the day, shortly after the report was released. The 52-week range on WTI futures is $37.75 to $92.06. The low was posted Monday.

Distillate inventories increased by 1.4 million barrels last week and remain in the middle of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged 3.7 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down by 5.7% when compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged 4.9 million barrels a day last week, down about 200,000 barrels a day compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 7.2 million barrels a day, down by 839,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 94.5% of capacity, with daily input of about 16.7 million barrels, about 117,000 barrels a day below the previous week’s average. BP’s Whiting, Ind., refinery restarted its repaired distillation tower earlier this week, and refining throughput and utilization should show some gains in next week’s report.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.556, down from $2.656 a week ago and from $2.715 a month ago. Last year at this time a gallon of regular cost $3.431 on average in the United States.

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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 down up about 1.4%, at $69.70 in a 52-week range of $66.55 to $99.96. Year to date, Exxon stock traded down about 24.6% and is down about 28% since early November, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 1.7%, at $71.19 in a 52-week range of $69.58 to $129.53. As of the most recent close, Chevron shares have dropped about 36.5% year to date and trade down nearly 41% since early November.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up about 0.1%, at $12.75 in a 52-week range of $12.37 to $35.83.

The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 2.3%, at $27.23 in a 52-week range of $26.00 to $55.30.