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Oil Supply Falling to Four-Week Low in Survey: Energy Markets

U.S. oil inventories probably fell to a one-month low last week as imports tumbled, a Bloomberg News survey showed.

Stockpiles dropped 1 million barrels, or 0.3 percent, in the seven days ended Aug. 13 from 355 million a week earlier, according to the median of 17 analyst estimates before an Energy Department report tomorrow. The last time supplies were so low was July 16, just before prices climbed to a three-month high of $82.97 on Aug. 4.

“Crude supplies are expected to show a sizable draw largely as a result of an expected additional slide in imports,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates, a Galena, Illinois-based consulting firm, said in a report.

Imports have dropped 15 percent since reaching an almost four-year high in the week ended July 23, according to Energy Department data. Shipments declined 188,000 barrels a day to 9.44 million in the week ended Aug. 6, two weeks after reaching 11.1 million, the highest level since August 2006.

Ten respondents forecast a decrease in oil supplies and seven predicted a gain. Gasoline inventories fell 0.2 percent, according to the survey. Refineries probably operated at 87.5 percent of capacity, down 0.6 percentage point from the previous week, the lowest level since April 16. Supplies of distillate fuel climbed 0.9 percent, the survey showed.

Production Disruptions

Oil for September delivery rose 53 cents, or 0.7 percent, to settle at $75.77 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after falling to $75.24 a barrel yesterday, a five-week closing low. U.S. oil supplies were 8.1 percent above the five-year average in the week ended Aug. 6.

Prices slipped from the settlement after the American Petroleum Institute reported at 4:30 p.m. that U.S. crude-oil stockpiles increased 5.87 million barrels to 358.6 million. September oil was up 27 cents, or 0.3 percent, at $75.51 in electronic trading at 4:33 p.m.

Disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico caused by Tropical Storm Bonnie in July may affect the Energy Department’s statistics for a few more weeks, said Antoine Halff, head of energy research at Newedge USA LLC in New York.

“It’s in line with seasonal trends,” Halff said. “Crude stocks decline at this time of year.”

The profit margin from refining a barrel of oil into a barrel of gasoline, based on Nymex futures prices, rose 68.3 cents, or 12 percent, to $6.2644 a barrel. The margin, or crack spread, dropped to $5.581 a barrel yesterday, the lowest level since Dec. 17.

BP Plc’s Global Indicator Margin, a measure of refining profitability, averaged $4.32 a barrel in the third quarter through Aug. 12, down 21 percent from the second quarter, the company said in a report yesterday.

Gasoline Supplies

Gasoline stockpiles fell 375,000 barrels from 223.4 million the prior week, according to the survey. Eighteen analysts submitted products estimates. It would be the first decline in eight weeks. Supplies have jumped 2.7 percent since the week ended June 18. Nine analysts anticipated a decrease, six forecast a gain and two predicted no change.

U.S. gasoline demand declined 2.5 percent in the week ended Aug. 6 to 9.24 million barrels a day, the lowest level since the week through July 9 and the second straight decline, according to Energy Department data. Demand was 9.63 million barrels a day on July 23, the highest level since August 2007. Stockpiles of the fuel were 8.6 percent above the five-year average last week, the data showed.

Gasoline for September delivery rose 2.89 cents, or 1.5 percent, to settle at $1.9532 a gallon on the Nymex today, after ending yesterday at the lowest level since Feb. 8.

Distillate fuel stockpiles, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, climbed 1.5 million barrels from 173.1 million, according to the survey. It would be the 12th consecutive increase and the highest level since January 1983. Sixteen respondents forecast an increase and one a decline.

The Energy Department is scheduled to release its weekly report at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in Washington.

Download: CGES's Lee on Oil Prices

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