Crude Near One Week Low After IEA Says Supplies 'Relatively Comfortable'

Oil traded near a one-week low in New York after the International Energy Agency said supplies are ample, particularly in the U.S., the world’s biggest crude- consuming nation.

Futures fell 0.2 percent yesterday after the Paris-based agency reported that inventory in the world’s most developed economies “looks relatively comfortable” after dropping 8.3 million barrels in November to 2.74 billion, or 58.7 days worth of consumption.

“The supply build that we’ve seen throughout the year has helped to prevent oil moving higher,” said Jonathan Barratt, managing director of Commodity Broking Services Pty in Sydney. “U.S. inventories are above the five-year average.”

The February contract was at $91.50 a barrel, up 12 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 12:31 p.m. Sydney time. Yesterday, it declined 16 cents to settle at $91.38, the lowest since Jan. 11. Prices have gained 16 percent in the past year.

Brent crude for March settlement fell as much as 25 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $97.55 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.

Crude Supplies

Oil is driven by “technical matters” such as the recent disruption of a pipeline in Alaska, oil fields in the North Sea and a weaker dollar, OPEC Secretary-General Abdalla El-Badri said in a statement on the group’s website.

“Any assumption that there is tightness in the market, however, is incorrect,” he said. “In reality, commercial stocks remain well above the five-year average and forward covers stands at around 60 days.”

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said four North Sea Brent oil platforms have been shut since Jan. 15.

An Energy Department report tomorrow may show U.S. crude inventories slid 1 million barrels last week, based on the median estimate of 15 analysts in a Bloomberg News survey. Gasoline stockpiles may have increased 2.3 million barrels, the survey shows.

The IEA raised its 2011 global oil demand forecast for a fourth month. Demand will climb by 1.4 million barrels a day to 89.1 million, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at bsharples@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jane Lee in Kuala Lumpur at jalee@bloomberg.net

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