Crude Stockpiles in U.S. Fell a Fourth Week, Survey Shows

U.S. crude supplies probably dropped for a fourth week as energy companies pared stockpiles to reduce year-end tax burdens, a Bloomberg survey showed.

Inventories decreased by 2.65 million barrels, or 0.7 percent, to 369.7 million in the week ended Dec. 20, based on the median of 10 analyst estimates before a report tomorrow from the Energy Information Administration. Eight of the respondents forecast a decline and two said there was a gain.

Companies in Gulf Coast states typically delay imports to minimize stockpiles at the end of the year to cut local taxes. Inventories in the Gulf states, known as PADD 3, dropped 3.05 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 13, which was larger than the nationwide decline of 2.94 million.

“Crude supplies are expected to show a sizable draw,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Illinois. “Tax considerations tend to force large crude draws at this time of year.”

West Texas Intermediate crude for January delivery rose 28 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $99.50 a barrel at 12:11 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract touched $99.65, the highest intraday level since Oct. 22.

The refinery utilization rate probably slipped 0.1 percentage point to 91.4 percent of capacity, the survey showed. Refineries ran at 92.6 percent in the seven days ended Dec. 6, the highest level since July 12, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

Fuel Inventories

Gasoline stockpiles probably increased 1.1 million barrels, or 0.5 percent, to 221.6 million last week. Nine respondents projected a gain and one forecast a decrease.

Inventories of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, slipped 1 million barrels, or 0.9 percent, to 115 million, the survey showed. Seven of the analysts forecast a decline and three an increase.

The EIA is scheduled to release its weekly petroleum report at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Washington, two days later than usual because of Christmas.

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