Crude Oil Price Creeps Up on Inventory Decline, Gasoline Build

Print Email

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning. U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 1.3 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 489 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory is now at the upper limit of the average range for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by 1.28 million barrels in the week ending November 18. API also reported gasoline supplies increased by 2.7 million barrels and distillate inventories fell by 350,000 barrels. For the same period, analysts had estimated an increase of 1 million barrels in crude inventories along with a rise of 900,000 barrels in gasoline supplies, and a decrease of 700,000 barrels of distillates as well.

Total gasoline inventories increased by 2.3 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 9.2 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 0.6% compared with the same period a year ago.

Crude oil prices have fluctuated over the past several days, largely due to prospects that next week’s OPEC meeting will result in a production cut. When it appears that the stars are in the proper alignment for an agreement on a cut, crude prices rise. When the proposed agreement appears threatened, prices drop.

For all their recent volatility, the post-election increase is more likely the result of hedge funds covering their short positions last week. There is little indication that the strong contango in the crude market is going to weaken any time soon. Actual physical supplies of crude tend to follow that curve which normally rolls up data on physical production, consumption, and stockpiles.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for January delivery traded flat at around $48.00 a barrel and moved higher to around $48.20 shortly after the report’s release. WTI crude settled at $48.03 on Tuesday. The 52-week range on January futures is $34.55 to $53.72.

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, up by 1.9% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged about 5.1 million barrels a day last week, up about 100,000 barrels compared with the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged about 7.6 million barrels a day, down by about 845,000 barrels a day compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 90.8% of capacity, with daily input averaging 16.4 million barrels, about 271,000 barrels a day more than the previous week’s average.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.131, down from $2.149 a week ago and down about 9 cents compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.072 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 flat, at $86.68 in a 52-week range of $71.55 to $95.55. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded up more than 11% and is down 16% since August 2014, as of Tuesday’s close.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 0.1%, at $110.77 in a 52-week range of $75.33 to $111.00. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares have added nearly 23% over the past 12 months and trade down more than 17% since August 2014.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEMKT: USO) traded up around 1%, at $10.73 in a 52-week range of $7.67 to $13.42.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) traded up about 0.5% at $30.92, in a 52-week range of $20.46 to $31.60.