Crude Oil Price Plunges 3% as Inventory Soars

November 2, 2016 by Paul Ausick

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories increased by 14.4 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 482.6 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains at the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories jumped by 9.3 million barrels in the week ending October 28. API also reported gasoline supplies decreased by 3.6 million barrels and distillate inventories dropped by 3.1 million barrels. For the same period, analysts had estimated a decrease of 1.1 million barrels in crude inventories, along with a drop of 1.9 barrels in gasoline supplies and a decrease of 1.9 million barrels of distillates as well.

Total gasoline inventories dropped by 2.2 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 9.1 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, down by 1.2% compared with the same period a year ago.

Despite news that OPEC members have reached an agreement on production cuts and will consider the agreement at their November 30 meeting, analysts and traders are wary that any sort of official agreement will be reached. There are simply too many players with too much self-interest and not a lot of room to maneuver.

Already the reaction to prices hovering around $50 a barrel has fired up U.S. shale producers to begin adding rigs and drilling new wells. Devon Corp. (NYSE: DVN) posted a third-quarter profit Wednesday morning and said it plans to add five operated rigs by the end of the year. The company has high-quality acreage in both the Permian Basin and the STACK play in Oklahoma.

On top of new drilling, there remain more than 5,000 drilled but uncompleted wells, according to the EIA’s October drilling productivity report. More than 1,300 are located in the Permian Basin, and another 1,276 are located in the Eagle Ford play. The number of drilled, uncompleted wells in the Permian Basin increased by 52 in the month of September while the overall count dropped by 27.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for December delivery traded down about 1.5% at around $45.80 a barrel, and it moved lower to around $45.25 shortly after the report’s release. WTI crude settled at $46.67 on Tuesday. The 52-week range on December futures is $34.06 to $53.62.

Distillate inventories decreased by 1.8 million barrels last week but remain well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged about 4.1 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, up by 3.7% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged about 4.7 million barrels a day last week, up about 200,000 compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 9 million barrels a day, up by 2 million barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 85.2% of capacity, with daily input averaging over 15.4 million barrels, about 104,000 barrels a day less than the previous week’s average. Refinery utilization remains low as maintenance and turnaround continue, and it is not unreasonable to think that the rise in imports indicates that crude is stacking up in advance of the end to the maintenance work.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.211, down from $2.228 a week ago and down more than a penny compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.191 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 about 0.5%, at $83.23 in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up more than 1.1% and is down nearly 19% since August 2014, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded down about 1.7%, at $104.63 in a 52-week range of $75.33 to $107.58. As of the most recent close, Chevron shares have added more than 17% over the past 12 months and trade down more than 20% since August 2014.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded down around 3.2%, at $10.22 in a 52-week range of $7.67 to $15.28.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded down about 2.6% to $27.34, in a 52-week range of $20.46 to $32.67.