Crude Oil Prices Sag on Inventory Build Up

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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 increased by 1.3 million barrels last week, maintaining a total U.S. commercial crude inventory of 447.2 million barrels. The commercial crude inventory remains about 6% higher than the five-year average for this time of year.

Tuesday evening the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported that crude inventories increased by about 2.5 million barrels in the week ending February 1. Gasoline inventories increased by about 1.7 million barrels and distillate stockpiles rose by about 1.1 million barrels. For the same period, analysts expected crude inventories to fall by about 2.3 million barrels.

Analysts were expecting gasoline inventories to rise by about 2.18 million barrels, gasoline inventories were expected to increase by 1.6 million barrels and distillate inventories were expected to drop by about 1.8 million barrels.

Hedge funds have been shedding their short positions since December, although they have not yet begun taking long positions in any great numbers. The “smart” money appears to be staying on the sidelines until there is some clarity from the trade talks between the United States and China, whether OPEC+ will cut production again, what will happen in Venezuela and if the waivers the Trump administration gave to some buyers of Iranian crude will be extended. The trade talks are the most important according to Reuters analyst John Kemp.

Other highlights from this morning’s EIA report:

  • Gasoline inventories increased by 500,000 barrels and remained about 5% above the five-year average range.
  • U.S. refineries produced about 9.9 million barrels of gasoline a day last week.
  • U.S. crude oil exports rose by 926,000 barrels a day last week and U.S. production was unchanged at 11.9 million barrels a day. Exports of refined products rose by 98,000 barrels a day last week to about 5.15 million barrels.
  • Distillate inventories dropped by 2.3 million barrels last week and are now about 4% below the five-year average range for this time of year.
  • Crude oil imports averaged 7.1 million barrels a day last week, up by 63,000 barrels compared with the previous week.
  • Refineries were running at 90.2% of capacity, with daily input averaging 16.6 million barrels a day, about 170,000 barrels more than the previous week’s average.

According to AAA, the current national average pump price per gallon of regular gasoline is $2.277, up about two cents from $2.256 a week ago and nearly four cents more than a month ago. Last year at this time, a gallon of regular gasoline cost $2.605 on average in the United States.

Before the EIA report, benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for March delivery traded down about 0.9% for the day, at around $53.20 a barrel, and it traded at $53.38 shortly after the report’s release.

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 0.3%, at $75.39 in a 52-week range of $64.65 to $87.36. Over the past 12 months, Exxon stock has traded down by about 3.7%.
  • Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) traded down about 0.5%, at $118.94 in a 52-week range of $100.22 to $131.08. As of last night’s close, Chevron shares are trading up about 1.5% over the past year.
  • The United States Oil ETF (NYSEARCA: USO) traded down about 0.6%, at $11.22 in a 52-week range of $9.23 to $16.24.
  • The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEAMERICAN: OIH) traded up about 0.1%, at $17.48 in a 52-week range of $13.13 to $29.87.