Energy Economy

Crude Oil Price Jumps on Iran, Lower Inventories

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 2.2 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 433.8 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains in the lower half of the average range for this time of year.

Tuesday evening, the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by about 1.9 million barrels in the week ending May 4. Gasoline inventories declined by about 2.1 million barrels, and distillate stockpiles decreased by 6.7 million barrels. For the same period, analysts expected crude inventories to decrease by about 720,000 barrels and gasoline inventories to drop by 450,000 barrels. Diesel inventories are seen down about 1.3 million barrels.

Total gasoline inventories decreased by 2.2 million barrels last week, according to the EIA, and remain in the upper half of the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced over 9.9 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, down by about 100,000 barrels compared to the prior week. Total motor gasoline supplied (the agency’s proxy for demand) averaged 9.5 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up about 2.2% compared with the same period a year ago.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for June delivery traded up about 2.6% at around $70.88 a barrel, and it rose about 3% to around $71.29 shortly after the report’s release. WTI settled at $69.06 on Tuesday and opened at $70.11 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on June futures is $44.54 to $71.25, and the high was posted this morning.

The U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran is having its expected effect of pushing crude oil prices higher. Brent crude for July delivery traded up around 3% Wednesday morning at $77.20 a barrel, about $6 a barrel more than WTI.

The reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran is almost certainly due in part to an agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia to ease, if not lift entirely, the production cuts imposed by OPEC and its partners, including Russia, that began last year. That is the only way that the president could have avoided a sharp increase in crude oil prices that he already has declared are too high.

Reuters analyst John Kemp cited a comment by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who said Tuesday that the United States has had “conversations with various parties … that would be willing to increase the oil supply.” There are a limited number of producing nations that have the spare capacity to make that happen: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Russia and the United States.

In exchange for more oil production, the Trump administration will increase pressure on Iran to cease its destabilization efforts in Yemen, Syria and other Middle East countries.

U.S. crude oil exports fell by 271,000 barrels a day last week, and U.S. production rose by 84,000 barrels a day to 10.7 million barrels. Exports averaged 1.88 million barrels a day last week and have a cumulative daily average for the year of 1.64 million barrels a day, a 118% increase over the year-ago export total.

Distillate inventories decreased by 3.8 million barrels last week and remain in the lower half of the average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged over 4.2 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, up by 4.1% compared with the same period last year. Distillate production averaged 5 million barrels a day last week, unchanged compared to the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged over 7.3 million barrels a day, down by 1.23 million compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 90.4% of capacity, with daily input averaging about 16.5 million barrels a day, about 75,000 less than the previous week’s average. Exports of refined products fell by 195,000 barrels a day last week to 4.82 million.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.826, up 1.2 cents from $2.814 a week ago and up 16.5 cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.34 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 2.4%, at $79.99 in a 52-week range of $72.16 to $89.30. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down about 2.9%.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded up about 2.7%, at $129.95 in a 52-week range of $102.55 to $133.88. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are trading up about 23.7% over the past year.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEARCA: USO) traded up about 1.8% to $14.31, in a 52-week range of $8.65 to $14.39 and the high was posted this morning.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: OIH) traded up about 3.3% to $28.49, in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $29.53.

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