Crude Price Soars on Huge Inventory Draw

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 6.2 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 504.6 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains at historically high levels for this time of year, according to the EIA.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by 7.5 million barrels in the week ending September 16. API also reported gasoline supplies decreased by 2.1 million barrels and distillate inventories saw an increase of 1.4 million barrels. For the same period, analysts had estimated a decrease of 3.4 million barrels in crude inventories, a drop of 567,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and an increase of 250,000 barrels of distillates.

Total gasoline inventories fell by 3.2 million barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remain well above the upper limit of the five-year average range. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s measure of consumption) averaged over 9.5 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 4.1% compared with the same period a year ago.

While crude oil prices have shown some gains recently, Wednesday’s announcement from the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) and next week’s expected informal meeting of OPEC and Russian producers are the near-term drivers of crude prices. The Bank of Japan has already bumped crude prices up 2% after announcing further economic stimulus, and if the Fed leaves its policy rate unchanged that will add a second boost to crude prices.

A potential agreement among producing nations will extend no further than a production freeze at near-record high levels. After an initial burst of enthusiasm from traders that could push crude to north of $50 a barrel, prices are more likely to revert to recent levels between about $44 and $48 a barrel.

Commercial inventories remain very high and only a production cut will have any impact on reducing the glut. That does not appear to be part of the current discussion.

The October futures contract expired Tuesday, closing at $43.44, and the new front month, November contract traded as high as $45.14 early Wednesday.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for November delivery traded up about 1.5% at around $44.90 a barrel and rose to around $45.50 shortly after the report’s release. WTI crude settled at $44.34 on Tuesday. The 52-week range on November futures is $34.10 to $54.01.

Distillate inventories increased by 2.2 million barrels last week and remain above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged about 3.6 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down by 5.9% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged about 5 million barrels a day last week, up by about 100,000 barrels compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged about 8.3 million barrels a day, up by 247,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 92% of capacity, with daily input averaging 16.6 million barrels, about 143,000 barrels a day less than the previous week’s average.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.214, up from $2.180 a week ago and up more than five cents compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.289 on average in the United States.

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 up about 0.1%, at $82.61 in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up nearly 12.5% and is down 20% since August 2014, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up 0.9%, at $98.56 in a 52-week range of $75.10 to $107.58. As of the most recent close, Chevron shares have added more than 25% over the past 12 months and trade down nearly 27% since August 2014.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up around 1.8%, at $10.25 in a 52-week range of $7.67 to $16.20.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 2% to $26.84, in a 52-week range of $20.46 to $32.78.

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