Energy Economy

Crude Oil Price Rises on Production Drop, Inventory Increase

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories increased by 5.3 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 490.3 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory is now above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories rose by 3.65 million barrels in the week ending November 11. API also reported gasoline supplies decreased by 160,000 barrels and distillate inventories rose by 3 million barrels. For the same period, analysts had estimated an increase of 1.5 million barrels in crude inventories, along with a drop of 500,000 barrels in gasoline supplies and a decrease of 1.8 million barrels of distillates.

Total gasoline inventories increased by 700,000 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 9.2 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, down by 0.3% compared with the same period a year ago.

Crude oil prices surged nearly 6% on Tuesday to close at $45.81 for the day. After gaining another 1% in early morning electronic trading, crude traded down about 0.9% this morning before the EIA report was released.

There are two things on traders’ minds: the likelihood that an agreement among OPEC members for a production cut at the cartel’s November 30 meeting and the impact of Donald Trump’s election.

Among other things, Trump has promised to restrict crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia. Trump also wants Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations to start paying for U.S. protection.

Restricting Saudi imports would be a huge benefit to U.S. producers of shale oil, including Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR), whose founder and CEO, Harold Hamm, has been Trump’s most visible advisor on energy policy.

It is very unlikely that imports from Saudi Arabia will end permanently, regardless of how much Hamm and Trump would wish it so. The United States is very unlikely ever to be truly energy independent, especially in terms of oil which is a global commodity traded on global markets. Even with the development of this country’s vast shale oil deposits, we still import about 7 million barrels of crude every day to feed U.S. refineries.

Economic laws also make a restriction unlikely. Crude oil and refined products adhere to a “law of one-price” rule that virtually guarantees that the price is as high as it can be and no higher.

The impact of Trump’s election on the oil portion of the energy business is likely to be mostly sound and fury signifying little.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for December delivery traded down about 0.9% at around $45.42 a barrel, and it moved lower to around $45.20 shortly after the report’s release. WTI crude settled at $45.81 on Tuesday. The 52-week range on December futures is $34.06 to $53.62.

The WTI price jumped to $46.34 soon after dropping when a closer look at the EIA report revealed that U.S. crude production had fallen by 11,000 barrels a day week over week and is down by 35,200 barrels a day year over year.

Distillate inventories increased by 300,000 barrels last week and remain well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged 4 million barrels a day over the past four weeks, down by 1.4% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged about 5 million barrels a day last week, up about 200,000 barrels compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged over 8.4 million barrels a day, up by about 981,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 89.2% of capacity, with daily input averaging over 16.1 million barrels, about 309,000 barrels a day more than the previous week’s average. Refinery utilization continues to pick up again as the maintenance and turnaround period ends.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.149, down from $2.201 a week ago and down nearly 10 cents compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.158 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 down about 0.4%, at $86.46 in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up 7.3% and is down nearly 16% since August 2014, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 0.7%, at $108.68 in a 52-week range of $75.33 to $109.06. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares have added more than 19% over the past 12 months and trade down more than 18% since August 2014.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up around 1%, at $10.44 in a 52-week range of $7.67 to $13.50.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded down about 0.1% to $30.50, in a 52-week range of $20.46 to $31.60.