Crude Oil Price Rises on Drop in Inventories, Ignoring Big Increases in Gas, Diesel Stocks

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly petroleum status report Wednesday morning showing that U.S. commercial crude inventories decreased by 5.9 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 426.5 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory is about 2% below the five-year average for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories fell by 3 million barrels in the week ending June 15. Gasoline inventories increased by 2.1 million barrels and distillate stockpiles increased by 750,000 barrels. For the same period, analysts expected crude inventories to decrease by about 1.25 million barrels. Gasoline inventories were seen up by 188,000 barrels and distillate inventories were expected to drop by 164,000 barrels.

Total gasoline inventories increased by 3.3 million barrels last week, according to the EIA, and are about 6% above the five-year average range. U.S. refineries produced about 10.1 million barrels of gasoline a day last week, down by about 400,000 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, down by about 100,000 barrels compared with the prior week.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for July delivery traded up about 1.1% at around $65.81 a barrel, and it rose to around $66.03 (up about 1.5) shortly after the report’s release. WTI settled at $65.07 on Tuesday and opened at $65.14 Wednesday morning. The 52-week range on July futures is $45.18 to $72.90.

Much of the movement in oil prices this week will come from traders positioning themselves for an announcement from the OPEC meeting that begins Friday. Saudi Arabia and Russia have been discussing an increase in production now that the quotas imposed on OPEC and other national producers have drained global crude oil stockpiles.

On the other side of the discussion, Iran, Venezuela and Iraq want to keep prices high. In comments Tuesday ahead of Friday’s meeting, Iran oil minister Bijan Zanganeh was willing to accept a small reduction in price, but because his country is the target of new U.S. sanctions, he wants to send the United States and its president a message. According to MarketWatch Zanganeh said:

Oil is not a weapon—it is not a political tool to be used against some countries, producers or consumers.

That’s not wholly true, of course, but then Zangeneh is not the only politician to have a faulty memory.

U.S. crude oil exports rose by 344,000 barrels a day last week and U.S. production remained flat at 10.9 million barrels. Exports averaged 2.37 million barrels a day last week and have a cumulative daily average for the year of 1.75 million barrels a day, a 130% increase over the year-ago export total.

Distillate inventories increased by 2.7 million barrels last week and are about 15% below the five-year average range for this time of year. Distillate product supplied averaged 4 million barrels a day for the past four weeks, roughly flat compared with the prior week. Distillate production averaged 5.5 million barrels a day last week, up by about 400,000 compared to the prior week’s production.

For the past week, crude imports averaged 8.2 million barrels a day, up by 143,000 compared with the previous week. Refineries were running at 96.7% of capacity, with daily input averaging 17.7 million barrels a day, about 196,000 a day more than the previous week’s average. Exports of refined products rose by 541,000 barrels a day last week to 5.22 million barrels a day.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.878, down about three cents from $2.909 a week ago and down nearly five cents per gallon compared with the month-ago price. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.285 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 $80.36 in a 52-week range of $72.16 to $89.30. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down about 2.4%.

Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded down about 0.8%, at $124.54 in a 52-week range of $102.55 to $133.88. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are trading up about 16.9% over the past year.

The United States Oil ETF (NYSEARCA: USO) traded up about 1.1%, at $13.28 in a 52-week range of $8.65 to $14.74.

The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: OIH) traded down about 0.7%, at $25.63 in a 52-week range of $21.70 to $29.87.